Q – Since I am allowed to show a video in class to my students, can I also put a digital version of that same film into my course Blackboard site where enrolled students can watch at their convenience?
The two situations really are not the same. Digitizing a film makes an additional copy of that work which is not created when you simply show the film in class, and that digital copy, because it is so cheap and easy to distribute over the internet, poses a real threat to the copyright holder’s interests.
For this reason, the teaching exception that allows you to put film clips into a course management site – the TEACH Act – is more restrictive than the face to face exception.
The TEACH Act is intended to facilitate distance education, and it applies to both fully distanced courses and “hybrid” courses, where classes meet together and also use content placed in a course management system. It allows the “transmission” of digital works only in systems that are restricted to students registered in the class. It permits distribution of “reasonable and limited” portions of films, provided that reasonable steps are taken to prevent students from making more copies or retaining a copy of the film clip beyond the duration of the class.
This means that only portions of a film can be digitized for inclusion in a Blackboard site. The amount used should be no more than is necessary to accomplish the pedagogical purpose, and must always be less than the whole. In order to prevent subsequent copying and distribution, streaming technology should be used for these film clips.
Before converting a film clip from analog format to digital for inclusion in a course management system, it is important to determine if a digital copy is available for purchase at a reasonable price. Only convert from analog if such a digital copy is either not available or is protected by an electronic copy protection system that prevents the use of a digital film clip.
The TEACH Act imposes some other conditions on the educational use of digital transmissions, some of which must be met by the institution rather than the individual instructor. North Carolina State University has developed a very useful Teach Act toolkit to help you understand and implement this exception to copyright law.
Policy on Electronic Course Content
For help deciding whether course content in Blackboard or some other digital form is fair use or requires copyright permission, consult this policy document adopted by the Academic Council in February 2008.
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