When showing a film in an online class, it may be considered fair use depending on how much of the film is being shown and for what purposes. If fair use does not apply, you will need a streaming license or view the film through a licensed streaming film provider.
The Copyright Act at §110(1) (face to face teaching exemption) allows for the performance or display of video or film in a classroom where instruction takes place in classroom with enrolled students physically present and the film is related to the curricular goals of the course.
The TEACH Act amendment to the Copyright Act, codified at § 110(2), permits the performance of a reasonable and limited portion of films in an online classroom. Under the TEACH Act, there is the express limitation on quantity, and an entire film will rarely constitute a reasonable and limited portion. Using the TEACH Act Checklist will help instructors to comply with the requirements when showing films in online classes.
Instructors may also rely upon fair use for showing films in an online course, although showing an entire film online also may not constitute fair use.
Finally, the DMCA prohibits the circumvention of technological prevention measures (TPM) on DVDs and other media for the purpose of copying and distributing their content. Therefore, digitizing and streaming an entire DVD is not permissible unless an express exemption permits this. Currently, there is an exemption permitting faculty to circumvent TPM only to make clips of films for use in teaching and research.
Content adapted from the University of Florida under CC BY-NC 4.0.