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Copyright Information: Film & video

What are Public Performance Rights?

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.


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Is it legal to download videos online?

It depends. Downloading films and videos, without the permission of the copyright owner or rightsholder, is illegal in Canada, unless the copying falls under Fair Dealing, is permitted by a license agreement, or the work is in the public domain. You must also be able to use download videos if it's permissible under the website's terms of use. If you need help in determining whether or not you can download and use a particular video, contact the Copyright Advisor at


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Can I change the format of a copyrighted film (e.g., digitize a VHS tape)?

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.


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Can I show streaming video in the classroom? 

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):

  • the video is available through the Internet;
  • you did not break or circumvent a digital lock to access or obtain a copy of the work (such as a login and password);
  • there is no clear and visible notice on the website or on the video itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the video (be sure to check the website's terms of use!);
  • you do not suspect that the video was posted without the consent of the owner of the video (e.g. the website is reputable and the person who posted the video appears to have a connection with the content.  An example where you know or ought to suspect that a video is infringing is where you find a clip from a Game of Thrones episode that is posted by anyone other than HBO); and
  • you identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker or broadcaster of the work when you use it.

YouTube videos may be streamed in the classroom for educational purposes provided that the video is accessed directly through the YouTube website (and satisfies the criteria listed above). YouTube videos cannot be downloaded and/or altered in any way for the purposes of showing the video in the classroom, nor may they be embedded or posted into Blackboard sites or other course websites.  You can include a hyperlink to the video in Blackboard as long as it opens up to a new browser window. It is your responsibility to check the YouTube channel's terms of use before using the video.

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


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Can I show a film in the classroom?

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.


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Content on this page has been copied and adapted from the "Copyright at UBC" website, created by the University of British Columbia under a CC BY 4.0 International License.

Have a copyright question?

If, after browsing this guide, you still have questions or require additional information please contact, or 403.440.6618.

Student drop-in office hours on the main floor of the RLLC will resume in September, 2019.