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Copyright and Fair Use

Guide to Copyright and Fair Use at Wagner College

Using Media Content

Under copyright law, a copyright holder has the exclusive right to publicly display his/her work.  Permission is required to publicly (in a non-classroom setting) show a work.

Face-to-Face Classroom Use
A film or video may be shown in the classroom when the instructor is present and the work is incorporated into instruction.  A license or permission is not necessary as long as the copy of the work is lawfully obtained.

Workshops and Training
Public performance rights are required for open workshops or training where a film or video is screened.  In some cases, clips may be used under the fair use provisions of copyright law.

Group Screenings
In most cases, an open screening of a film or video requires a public performance license.  Videos and DVDs rented or purchased from Blockbuster, Netflix, etc., are intended for "home use only."  Performance rights are not included.  Therefore, a public performance license must be obtained prior to a public showing.  Under certain conditions, the use of short clips of a film or video may be permissible under the fair use provision of copyright law.  The videos and DVDs purchased by Horrmann Library do not, generally, include public performance rights.  However, there may be some documentaries that do.  Please check with Cathy Perkins ( for additional information.

Creating Media Content

Students and faculty wishing to use copyright-protected songs, video clips, etc. to create content for videos, films, websites, and PowerPoint presentations should be guided by the provisions of Fair Use, especially if the content will be posted either online or via social media. The resulting work should be transformative, in that it takes original materials to make something new and different.  

Fair Use is an exception to and limitation of the exclusive rights of copyright holders, which allows members of educational and other institutions to reproduce protected materials for educational purposes. Fair use may be determined by an evaluation of four factors relating to the use of the materials.

The factors to be considered are:

  •     The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for educational
  •     The nature of the copyrighted work (i.e. format)
  •     The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  •     The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of the copyrighted work.

All four factors should be evaluated in each case, and no one factor can determine the outcome. While fair use applies to teaching, research, and other related activities, an educational purpose alone does not automatically make a use "fair."

Please use the Wagner College Fair Use Checklist (PDF) to determine whether or not your materials require permission for use.

Some questions to consider when assessing the applicability of fair use:

  • Will the copyrighted material be used for commentary or criticism?
  • Will the copyrighted material be used for illustration or example?
  • Was the material captured incidentally or accidentally?
  • Will the copyrighted material be used to memorialize, preserve or rescue an experience, event, or cultural phenomenon?
  • Will a portion of the work be used to stimulate discussion?
  • Will quotations be used in order to recombine elements to highlight relationships between them

For a more comprehensive explanation of best practice in the creation of media content, see the attached documents to the left. There are numerous websites available that offer open access music, videos, artwork, etc.  A selected list is available under the Public Domain Resources tab of this Research Guide.