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Educator and Librarian Learning Center Sandbox

Information and training for library staff and educators to encourage and support high-quality information literacy instruction and research

Streaming Video

Question: Can I stream video to my students in person or online from my subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc?

Answer: Unfortunately, not usually without explicit permission of the streaming service.  Although copyright law allows for the in-person display of video content for educational purposes, the terms of service or subscription contract that you agree to with a streaming company could override the law.  There are certain films that will allow for educational showings on the platforms, and you can contact your streaming content provider directly to check. However, most standard content providers have terms of use that are unclear about classroom use.

You can play physical media (such as a Blu-ray or DVD) in a non-profit classroom when you’re physically present with your students, and there are some subscription services specifically for educational use. Occasionally, you can purchase a one-time license to use video content through a video streaming licensing service. Contact your media specialist or curriculum director for more information about how to lawfully show the content that your students need. 

Question: Can I play a YouTube video for my students in person or online?

Answer: YouTube also has terms of service/a user agreement, although not everyone actively agrees to those terms (especially if they don’t have their own YouTube account.)   YouTube’s terms of service are a little unclear on how they expect videos to be used, but many people do use YouTube videos in a variety of teaching applications. And many creators who post on YouTube clearly do expect their videos will be used in classrooms and other public settings. If you use YouTube, do be careful of ad content and avoid using content that seems to be an unlawfully uploaded version of the content. 


Q: Can I use any image that shows up in a Google Image search when creating educational materials?

A: You may be able to use some images you find online, depending on where the images come from, and how you plan to use them. If you find it on a site that is dedicated to the lawful use of images, marked as available for use from a library or archive, or the image has a clearly indicated creative commons license, you probably can  use the image. Otherwise, you will have to make a judgment call about fair use, or get permission.

Fair use is never an all or nothing question; many educational uses are fair use, but others may sometimes not be. 

Q: Where can my students and I go to find images that are acceptable to use?

A: This is one of the trickier questions, because there are so many places to go, and it is very difficult to guarantee search results will be desirable for younger students.  However, if you want to limit your students to images that are acceptable to use for classwork, here are two suggestions:

For younger students: KidzSearch, Photos for Class

For older students: Openverse/Creative Commons/Wikipedia Commons Licensed Images

Q: Once I find an image, how do I give credit?

A: The first step for K-12 educators using images is to model oattribution as basic manners and ethics.. It’s not typically a legal issue, except when required by a contract. When using images for teaching, try to  provide as much information as you can find to give credit to the image's creator, using whatever format (a caption, MLA, APA, etc) is appropriate for your students' experience and age.  Once you have modeled this practice, you can encourage it in your students' work.   

Creative Commons licenses do require attribution as part of the legal process, but they’re pretty flexible about that.  There are some examples here

Audio for Books

Question: Can I 'burn' a copy of an audiobook and make the files available for my students behind a login page?

Unfortunately, not usually without permission of the owner of the copyright.   This is even true behind an LMS login. 

Question: Can I record myself reading a text and post it online for my students?

Fortunately, the answer is often yes, depending on how widely you share the result, and whether a recorded version already exists. Creating a recording for elementary education may be fair use, and may not need permission. It’s more likely to be fair use if your recording integrates some discussion, or connects to other classroom activities, and if you only share with small numbers of students, or only record portions of a longer book. It’s less likely to be fair use if you share widely, or if your recording is substituting for a purchase of an official audiobook, etc. During the pandemic, there were also many authors who came forward to share their support of read alouds, and are supportive of librarians and teachers performing their good work.

Book Chapters/Articles

Q: Can I copy book chapters and make them available behind a password protected site in my LMS?

Sharing a copy of a book chapter that is not licensed to your organization can be acceptable under fair use, but the spirit of the copy is very important if there were ever a legal question.  Only share the pages that are necessary to convey the learning objective, and when possible work with your media specialist to create a protected copy that is only available for the time it is needed, similar to a course reserve in higher education.  While there is no set amount of content that is acceptable to copy and share with students, some questions to considerare: Is the amount copied so large that a person would have to purchase the book to gain the same information? Are we using this content repeatedly as part of a wider curriculum?  If the answer to either of those is yes, you might consider asking your media or curriculum coordinator to help you purchase the content.

Q: Can I link to a PDF copy of a news or informational article? 

A: When possible, linking to the content directly online is a best practice.  This gives the reader context for where the information is hosted and gives credit to the content creator.  If this is not possible, tread carefully.  Sharing a copy of a PDF that is not openly available to your organization can be acceptable under fair use, but the spirit of the copy is very important.  Only share the pages that are necessary to convey the learning objective, and when possible work with your media specialist or tech integrationist to create a protected copy that is only available for the time it is needed.

Movie Nights/Public Performance

Q. Can my school/student group/PTA show a movie for public performance/non-educational purposes?

A. Not usually. Without purchasing a public performance license from the copyright holder, or obtaining specific permission, a group puts itself at risk of a kerfuffle if they show a film in the spirit of entertainment or fundraising without a license.  If you need a public performance license for a particular film, contact your curriculum director or media specialist and they will help you find the appropriate license.

Attribution and Sharing

Copyright questions abound for educators, but you are not alone!  Please contact our librarians at Minitex with any questions about copyright and/or the advice in this guide, and we will work together to find the best answers. 

Special thanks to Nancy Sims, Copyright Program Librarian for the University of Minnesota Libraries, for her consult and guidance on this reference.

Creative Commons License
Please feel free to take any part of this libguide to share with your own communities, no attribution needed.

Copyright for K12 Educators by Minitex is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.