RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Streaming movies in school and the TEACH Act - 4/1/2019
Does the TEACH Act allow a school to stream entire movies, if the movies could otherwise be shown ...
Posted: Monday, April 1, 2019 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

Does the TEACH Act allow a school to stream entire movies, if the movies could otherwise be shown in their entirety in class?

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

The TEACH Act was adopted in 2002 to enable the “digital transmission” of otherwise copyright-protected content for educational purposes. 

Schools meeting the Act’s requirements[1] can stream readings of poetry, images of paintings, and lines of computer coding, without fear of infringement claims.  This allows regular teaching activities—like analyzing a poem, assessing a painting, or teaching HTML--to happen online, without fear that the duplication or transmission of the copyright-protected content will bring a lawsuit. 

The TEACH Act positions online learning to use content as it would be used in a traditional classroom—as well as to novel and innovative things via distance learning technology.

But there are a few aspects of the “traditional classroom” the TEACH Act cannot replicate, and a critical one is: watching entire movies.

Per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, entire movies can be shown during an in-person class (if they are part of the curriculum…the law doesn’t allow a trigonometry class to kick back with “Wonder Woman” after finals are shown, unless they are calculating the angles of the bullets bouncing off her bracers). 

But there is no equivalent exception in the TEACH Act for streaming an entire video as part of an online course. 

In fact, in very plain language, the Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act states that only a “portion” of a film can be shown.  As stated right here:

…the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission…. [emphasis added].

Okay, I admit it: it’s possible the “very plain language” is only plain to lawyers (and copyright scholars—many of whom are librarians--who leave some lawyers in the dust on these issues). 

The “House Report” [2] below, explains how this language means performance of an entire movie is not allowed:

The exemption for instructional broadcasting provided by section 110(2) would apply only to “performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of a work.” Thus, the copyright owner’s permission would be required for the performance on educational television or radio of a dramatic work, of a dramatico-musical work such as an opera or musical comedy, or of a motion picture.   [emphasis added]

So what does this mean?  Schools that want to stream entire movies as part of an online course—even if those movies could be shown during an in-person class--should not rely on the TEACH Act as their protection from infringement.[3]

What are the other solutions?

  • The institution can obtain a license to stream the movie(s);
  • The institution can create a “hybrid” course (part online, part in-person) that shows the movies in a physical class, as authorized by 110(1);
  • Students can be required to subscribe to a streaming service or other licensed source of the movies, just like they rent or buy textbooks;
  • In some instances, fair use might apply, BUT that should be determined on a movie-by-movie basis and documented very carefully, since simple academic need is generally not a defense to infringement.

Thank you for this question!



[1] There are a lot of them, including the requirement that the material used is presented “…as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities….” 

[2] This language can be found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/110.

[3] The TEACH Act is also comprised of Copyright Act §112, but as the “House Report” for that section says “[Since the] performance exemption provided by section 110(2) applies only to nondramatic literary and musical works, there was no need to exclude motion pictures and other audiovisual works explicitly….” [emphasis added].

 

 

Tags: Copyright, Streaming, Section 110, TEACH Act

Topic: Online Story Time and Copyright - 3/11/2019
[The member provided a link to a story about an elementary school principal putting on her pajamas...
Posted: Monday, March 11, 2019 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

[The member provided a link to a story about an elementary school principal putting on her pajamas and using “Facebook Live” to read her scholars a weekly bedtime story.]

I always love ideas like this but am afraid to promote them because I have heard that this is a copyright violation. Is it? If it is, what are our options to do something like it in a legal and ethical way? Thank you!

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

Reading to kids is one of the best thing we can do for them.  If the law gets in the way of that, there is something wrong with the law!

That said, honoring the rights of authors and illustrators who create stories to charm and educate is one of the best ways we can make sure there is always something new to read. 

And it’s the law.  

The member’s concern is justified; copyright law rewards creativity by empowering rights holders to control how and when their work is duplicated--in this case, “performed”[1].  A reading on “Facebook Live”—no matter how many cute, be-jammied scholars it enriches—could infringe those rights[2]

But as the member also suggests, respecting copyright does not need to be the end of the line; there are many ways this type of real-time, remote reading can take place.

Below, please find my “Top 5 Ways for a Teacher to Remotely Read a Bedtime Story to Lots of Kids in Different Places Without Fear of Committing Copyright Infringement.”

1.  When choosing a book to read, select a work in the “public domain”…meaning, the book is no longer protected by copyright.  As of 2019, this means works published before 1924 (in the U.S.) and other select situations.[3]

For example, the “Brothers Grimm” who were writing in the 1800’s, are not suing anymore (nor are their heirs).  Just make sure the publisher hasn’t found a new way to assert the copyright of the copy you read from (a new version, new illustrations and layout, a slightly less sadistic version of the original, etc).

2.  Write your own story.

This one is my favorite.  Who knows?  You might discover you’re the next Eric Carle!

3.  Hold a writing contest amongst the students that includes parental permission to read the entries/winners online. 

This could also bolster interest in the event, since kids could hear their own work read, and see their own pictures online.

4.  Explore making the reading exempt under the TEACH Act (section 110 (2) of the Copyright Act).

The TEACH Act exempts certain digital transmissions of work from the classroom environment.  It has several highly specific requirements, so educators should connect with their institution’s attorney and IT department to see if this option can work for them.  While not the solution for every “good night” reading, with some planning, it could be a way to make online reading sessions a part of a routine curriculum.

And finally…

5.  Explore getting permission from the rights holder!  While not all authors will be in a position to agree, many will say “Yes, of course!” when asked if a teacher can livestream a reading of their book (of course, if you also want to show their book as well as read it, you will need permission from the illustrator, too). 

Reaching out to an author or publisher takes time, but many children’s authors are very accessible.  My high school friend, Grace Lin, is a well-known children’s book author (and recent winner of a Caldecott Honor for “A Big Mooncake for Little Star”).  I reached out to Grace on Facebook to get her take on this issue (and got her permission to share her thoughts). 

For Grace, whose work contains lovely and carefully rendered illustrations, such a request would be about intent and quality.  She said if the reading was more about the not-for-profit reader and audience connecting over her story, and not the video dwelling on the pages (effectively copying them), she would consider giving permission.  On the flip side, Grace felt that serious duplication (with the video dwelling on the pages) could be an unwelcome duplication. 

Like many children’s book authors, Grace is accessible via her website, www.gracelin.com, and I encourage would be night-time-story-readers to reach out to her!

Thank you for this great question.  Copyright is an important law to honor in the educational environment.  But finding ways—lots of ways—to give children an early and deep love of books is an even greater service to the world.  It’s one of the reasons librarians are so important.

 


[1] There are six distinct rights given by a copyright: reproduction, , derivative works, distribution, performance, display, and (for sound recordings) digital transmission.  You can see the full list here:  https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-17-copyrights/17-usc-sect-106.html

[2] Small note: the reason books can be read aloud in class (from k—grad school) without fear of infringement is because of an exception in Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act.  My solution in number “5,” above, is based on this exception.

[3] How can you tell if a work is in the public domain?  One of the great treasures of the universe, a chart for determining public domain availability, is maintained by Cornell University at:  https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain.

 

Tags: Copyright, Social Media, Streaming, Story time, Online Programming, School Libraries, Section 110, TEACH Act

Topic: Educational films without a license - 4/24/2018
A couple committees at the college my library is at want to present copyrighted films in the theat...
Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

A couple committees at the college my library is at want to present copyrighted films in the theatre as part of an educational film series. They are under the impression that as long as there is an "educational component" to the screening that it falls under fair use.

The showings would not be part of a course, although there are brief lectures by Faculty introducing films and related concepts. The screenings are open to the public. No admission is charged.
Does this fall under fair use? 

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

The short answer is: no, this scenario is not a “fair use.”

But that’s not the end! “Fair use”—which is found in Section 107 of the Copyright Act—is not the only exception to copyright infringement.

There is another way.  Section 110 of the Copyright Act provides:

[T]he following are not infringements of copyright:

(1)performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made[.] [emphasis added].[1]

In the cold, scary, expensive world of copyright infringement, section 110 is breath of fresh air.  Unlike section 107, which creates a four-factor “fair use” formula so esoteric, you can consult three lawyers and get six opinions, Section 110’s exceptions are well-defined and clear. [2]

So, can a gathering of instructors and students in a theater on a college campus meet these clear 110 requirements?  Yes! 

But.

The problem is, as used in 110, the term “students” is not broad enough to apply to the member’s precise scenario.  While the 110 term “instructors” includes guest lecturers (if their instructional activities remain confined to the class location and syllabus), the 110 term “pupils” is generally regarded as meaning only enrolled members of a class[3]  In addition, it is best if the syllabus for the course, whether for credit or a certificate, supports a conclusion that the viewing context really is a class—not recreation (even if it is enlightening recreation) masquerading as academia.  110 is a powerful exception to infringement, but it has its limits.

107 and 110 exceptions to infringement can sometimes get conflated.  Here are some examples of how they do (or do not) apply, using one of my new favorite movies:

1.  “Black Panther” uncut and shown on campus as part of an open-to-all, educational film series about would not be allowed under either fair use or 110.  Any such showing must be licensed.  

2.  “Black Panther” partially evoked in very small, carefully-chosen selections for an open campus forum on “Women in Major Motion Picture Fight Scenes” could be allowed under “fair use,” but film stills and excerpts must be limited to only what is needed to make a point.

And finally…

3. “Black Panther” shown in its entirety to students enrolled in a “Comics and Society” class would be allowed under 17 U.S.C. 110 (1)…so long as the movie genuinely contributes to the substance of the course, is shown only to enrolled students, and the copy they watch is not pirated. 

What’s the take-away?  Educators should apply “fair use” when needed, but remember that section 110(1) creates exceptions to infringement, too.  It’s no vibranium[4], but is a powerful part of an educator’s arsenal.


[1] Care must be taken to ensure there is no re-transmission of the content.  Another section of 110 does allow for limited re-transmission for online learning, but to qualify, the institution must adhere to all TEACH Act requirements.

[2] There are more than this, and of course, they all come with rules.  Read the statute before relying on 110 to protect you from infringement.

[3] See House Report 94-1476

[4] Special rare metal in “Black Panther;” also, what Captain America’s shield is made from.

 

Tags: Copyright, Fair Use, Section 110, TEACH Act

Topic: Using books on social media - 9/19/2017
Can we film a story time done at the library using copyrighted books, and then either stream the e...
Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

Can we film a story time done at the library using copyrighted books, and then either stream the event live over Facebook for a one-time showing, or film and upload the story time to our library's YouTube channel? The purpose would be so that patrons who cannot come to the library will still be able to participate in story time and gain early literacy benefits.

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

This is a lovely idea, but any library considering something like this should get assurance that the work is in the public domain[1], or have permission from the authorized licensor (who is not always the copyright holder), before filming/streaming. 

This is because an audio recording[2] of a copyright-protected book is likely a “derivative work” (a work based on the original[3]) that, without permission, constitutes an infringement. 

A great example of a permitted derivative work is a commercially published audiobook.  Check out the credits on an audiobook listing—they generally recite two copyrights: the first for the original work (used with permission), and the second for the audio recording.  This is how the law both limits and promotes such recording.

A few other legal considerations approach this scenario, but don’t quite apply:

  • “Fair Use” would not apply, as the reading would likely use a large portion (if not the entirety) of the work, and the purpose is not transformative, nor for commentary/criticism. The fact that the transmission would be for a worthy goal, consistent with a library’s mission, is likely not enough to make the use Fair--even if the effect on the market would be insubstantial.
  • If the recordings were purely for ADA accessibility[4], there could be an argument, but such a project would need to be planned carefully, but that is not the purpose in the example.
  • The TEACH Act, which allow academics at TEACH-registered institutions to stream copyrighted content, but that only applies under very precise circumstances.[5]

That said, because a live reading could promote the works featured, I imagine there are publishers who would grant a limited license for such an endeavor.  However, depending on their contract with the author(s), a publisher might not be able to!  In any event, asking permission is a case-by-case exercise.

The good news is that the reading itself, at the physical location of the library, is allowed so long as it meets Section 110 (4)[6] of the Copyright Act (this probably isn’t news to most librarians). 

Very often, attorneys are perceived as throwing cold water on project like this, and hopefully this answer has shown why that is usually our only option.  That said, if there is ever a specific work a library wants to plan an event around (a specific book, etc), it is worth it to investigate the status and licensing posture of that work.  You never know what you’ll find when you check the status, or the ability to get permission, for a specific work.

I wish you all good reading.

 


[1] No longer protected by copyright…and for that matter, not affixed with a trademark the owner could claim you infringed.

[2] Because it technically “makes a copy” as it goes, streaming is often considered duplication.  If you ever feel like causing a healthy debate, ask three intellectual property attorneys and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice to comment on this line of case law.

[3] Per Section 101 of the Copyright Act: A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. [Emphasis added.]

[4] Per Section 110 (8) of the Copyright Act.

[5]Those circumstances are listed in the ALA’s TEACH Act FAQ.

[6] Law linked here.

Tags: Copyright, Public Domain, Streaming, Derivative Works, Social Media, Story time, Online Programming, TEACH Act, Library Programming and Events

The WNYLRC's "Ask the Lawyer" service is available to members of the Western New York Library Resources Council. It is not legal representation of individual members.