Under the Canadian Copyright Act, a copyright holder has the exclusive right to show a work in public, or to authorize the showing of a work. These rights are known as Public Performance Rights. Outside of the educational context, typically a person must seek permission from the copyright holder before they can show a work in public.
Recent changes to the Copyright Act have created an exception to this rule for academic institutions. Academic institutions may now play music and videos in the classroom, for an audience primarily comprised of students of the academic institution and not for profit, without previously seeking the permission of the copyright holder.
When you convert a copyright protected work from one form to another (i.e. VHS to DVD), this is called "format shifting". The Copyright Act permits format shifting of a copyrighted film (i) which you own a legitimately purchased copy of, (ii) to use for you own private purposes, (iii) provided that you do not give the new copy away, and (iv) as long as you did not circumvent a digital lock to do so. Please note that this exception does not permit you to convert a VHS cassette for the purposes of screening a film in class.
If your goal is to show an online streaming video for an educational or training purpose, then you may do so long as you follow ALL of the following rules (which are derived from section 30.04 of the Copyright Act):
Tricky bits: Showing the video in the classroom is not permitted if the content of the video itself violates copyright, i.e. if the video itself is an illegal copy. Also, if you need a username and password to access the video (as with Netflix) you should not show it in class.
MRU has also purchased access to a number of streaming video collections, including Films on Demand and the National Film Board of Canada, which can be shown in any classroom at MRU. You can find all of MRU library's streaming services here.
The majority of commercial films may be shown in the classroom without seeking permission from the copyright holder, provided the copy shown is a legally obtained copy. Copies may be brought in from home, or may be obtained from a library, including the Mount Royal library, or a video rental store.
Some small distributors of niche films may require the purchaser of the videos to agree not to show the films in a classroom setting before they may purchase the video. Instructors who have agreed to such a clause would be expected to honour it. Films in the Mount Royal library which are subject to such a restriction will be marked accordingly.
If you have questions about showing a film in your class, contact the library at 303-440-6000.
If, after browsing this guide, you still have questions or require additional information please contact MRUcopyright@mtroyal.ca, or 403.440.6618.
The Copyright Advisor is also available in EL1132 for drop-in office hours: