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Copyright: The Law and Guidelines

Fair Use Guidelines for Video Use in the Classroom

Best Practices for Fair Use of Video Content in the Classroom

  • Link to video content whenever possible instead of allowing students to download materials. Use streaming or other technologies that limit students' ability to download, copy, or redistribute the material.
  • If copying a video, do not use any more of the video than the amount needed to serve your purpose. Use clips that are pertinent to your lesson plan.
  • Transform video when appropriate through the addition of background readings, study questions, commentary, criticism, annotation, and student reactions.
  • Limit access to video content to students enrolled in the course.
  • Notify students that videos are being made available for teaching, study, and research only.
  • Watch for DVDs that are sold with various types of licenses, e.g., "Single Screening, Library Purchase...", etc. For use in the classroom or online teaching you are advised to use only a "Library Purchase" or "Educational License," copy, not a personal copy.
  • Note use of any content that is protected under U.S. copyright, and provide attributions to known copyright owners of the videos.

Videos from the University Libraries

Use the main search tool at the University Libraries to search across all available resources. Limit your search to UAlbany Libraries, choose "Videos" from the Resource Type under Tweak Your Results (on the left), and explore your results. The following are two of our main streaming collections. 

Sources of Free (or almost free) Video Content

Free and Open Video Resources

The American Experience, PBS

A widely-recognized (winner of Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody Awards, and an Academy Award nomination, among others) documentary series focused on American History. It offers full-length films, film clips, and digital shorts. 

American Memory, Library of Congress

Films and videos covering a wide range of topics including American music, film, and Civil Rights, in the Library of Congress Digital Collections.

The Annenberg Learner

Multimedia resources for K-12 teachers with an emphasis on student learning and on professional development.

The Civil Rights Digital Library

Archival moving images, reference resources and instructional resources for educators.

Documentary Heaven

Educational documentaries covering a wide range of topics and presented from varying points of view, organizing by category and searchable by frequency of use.


A non-profit site dedicated to finding, preserving, contextualizing, and showcasing documentary films on American traditional cultures. In its "Rights" section, it notes that the film makers have given permission to stream their work for users to watch free of charge on their home computers, but that for other permissions, i.e., downloading, using the footage in other projects or videos, or projecting the streams in a classroom or institution, the user should apply to Folkstreams or to the filmmaker, whose film may available as a high quality DVD from a distributor.

Forum Network

"The Forum Network is a public media service that makes freely-available hundreds of video and audio lectures from scholars, authors, artists, scientists, policymakers, and community leaders. Major support is provided by The Lowell Institute, an organization created to carry out the 1836 bequest of John Lowell Jr., to make free public lectures available to the citizens of Boston and beyond."


A PBS documentary series with a focus on investigative journalism regarding contemporary issues in American Society.


Internet Archive, Moving Image Archive Almost 6,000,000 titles available to download or view, including feature films (predominantly older titles), news media, and television programs/clips/commercials. Search is intuitive but not advanced.

National Film Board of Canada Access to a broad range of films, documentaries, and their amazing animations. The site also includes 65 subjects for broad search capability and a brief collection of curated clips for the classroom. You can find use Advanced search on the institutional web site, but it is not linked back to the online collection.

NOVA, PBS. Excellent source of educational videos on a range of topics, from Arts and Culture to Drama and Food. Create a free account to expand your viewing options.

POV, PBS "POV (a cinema term for “point of view”) is television’s longest-running showcase for independent nonfiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 500 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues."

Open Video Project (UNC Chapel Hill) "The purpose of the Open Video Project is to collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for the digital video, multimedia retrieval, digital library, and other research communities. Researchers can use the video to study a wide range of problems, such as tests of algorithms for automatic segmentation, summarization, and creation of surrogates that describe video content; the development of face recognition algorithms; or creating and evaluating interfaces that display result sets from multimedia queries." 

TED Talks "TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talksTED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages." Provocative, often brilliant, many presentations can serve as a launch for serious class discussion.

University at Albany Libraries (UA access only). Almost 4,000 videos available online. Search the catalog for "media," then filter as "available online," Resource Type "videos". Continue to filter by language, subject, etc. Two excellent databases for additional content can be discovered in the Database Finder, AVON (Academic Video Online/66,000 titles), and Kanopy.

Wikipedia Commons "Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language." Drill down through the links to search by category.

YouTube  YouTube is a video sharing service that allows users to watch videos posted by other users and upload videos of their own. Search is simple, you can subscribe to channels that you like, or save sites for viewing later. To filter your results for material with a CC BY Creative Commons license, click on Filter when you get your search results and select "Creative Commons" under Features. Most material is free but others you can buy or rent, or watch for free if you don't mind the ads. 

Subscription Video and TV Services

TV and Video Streaming Services. Nearly all of the streaming video services offer free trial periods. This is just a selection of what's available, as the markets and technology are rapidly evolving. 

Amazon Prime Video "Prime Video is a video streaming service available for Amazon Prime members. With an eligible Amazon Prime membership, you have access to thousands of Prime Video titles at no additional cost." Amazon Video is a pay-per-view option.

HBO Max "HBO Max is a platform offered by WarnerMedia that features 10,000 hours of premium content bundling all of HBO together with even more movies, shows and Max Originals for the whole family, including Friends, South Park, The Big Bang Theory, Wonder Woman, the Studio Ghibli collection, and much more."

Hulu with Live TV Hulu with Live TV provides between 50-70 live TV channels, including popular sports and entertainment networks. You also get a selection of local channels, although not as many as some competitors.

Netflix A streaming service giant that allows members to watch a wide variety of award-winning TV shows, movies, documentaries, and more on internet-connected devices.

Philo "If you want sports, local TV shows, or news channels, Philo isn’t for you." But if you regularly watch entertainment TV networks like the History Channel, Discovery Channel, IFC, Cooking Channel, HGTV, and similar cable networks, this may be a good option.

Sling TV You can get both sports and entertainment from Sling TV, and includes a growing number of local broadcast TV stations from the major broadcast networks.

YouTube TV Over 85 channels with up to 6 user profiles included in your subscription with no contracts, allowing students a chance to share the cost.

Sources of Free (or almost free) Streaming Audio Content

Streaming Platforms (cloud-based services with collections of music sorted by genre or artist):
Amazon Prime Music (free for Amazon Prime subscribers): Available through iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, connected speaker support platforms as well as in cars. Ad-free.

Deezer is available through OS and Android apps, and Web UX platforms. MP3 and FLAC files.

Pandora is available through iOS and Android apps, Web UX, smart device integration platforms. It is a streaming service that allows personalized playlists and gathers revenue through frequent ads.

Slacker Radio/LiveXLive is available through iOS and Android apps, Web UX, smart device integration, and connected cars. It is a live music platform for concerts and festivals, audio stations, original shows, and podcasts.

Spotify Free is available through iOS and Android apps, desktop app, web player, smart TV apps, connected speaker  support, and in cars.

YouTube/Music is available through iOS and Android apps and has frequent ads.


Streaming Radio Networks:

Accuradio is an independent, multi-channel internet radio station that has personalized playlist capabiity. It is available through iOS and Android apps, smart device integration, and Web UX platforms.

iHeartRadio is available through iOS and Android apps, smart device integration, and Web UX platforms, and provides an inventory of songs as well as radio network.

MixCloud is available through iOS and Android apps, smart device integration, Web UX.

SiriusXM The free option for Sirius XM has ended, but low cost offers are still available.

Sonos Radio Requires the Sonos app for iOS/Android/desktop to play on Sonos hardware only (so, it is not free).

TuneIn is available through iOS and Android apps, smart device integration, and Web UX platforms, and provides access to radio stations and podcasts. Its 320Kbps bitrate capabilities offers excellent sound quality.

Getting Permission for Copyrighted Audio and Video

Code of Best Practices for Fair Use of Online Video by The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law and The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University.

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use in Teaching for Film and Media Educators (Section dealing with obtaining permissions)

Content Delivery via Zoom

Campus Resources for Zoom Video Conferencing and Teaching

Zoom Wiki is the best resource for all things Zoom at the University at Albany, with links for how to get connected, using the service, scheduling, recording, breakout rooms, and security information. It provides the most current information available.

Zoom: The Basics A four page pdf published by our ITS department, this is a good introduction, including information on how to record, save and share presentations. The additional links to zoom "tips and tricks" resources are worth exploring.

Zoom Training Videos are a good place for those brand new to the technology.

Keep Teaching. Campus ITS.

"Zoom offers video, audio, wireless screen-sharing, polling and breakout rooms. Get started on Zoomlearn the basics or explore more features of this service. Now professors can add Zoom class meetings to Blackboard courses. Visit our Zoombombing Resources page to protect your class from unwanted interruptions. For added Great Dane spirit, download and use UAlbany-themed Zoom backgrounds."

Zoom Security Guidance Watch for updates on Zoom security best practices. There is more security information available in the University Wiki (see the first entry, above).

New Zoom Security Settings (August 10, 2020)

Zoom Settings for Security, Privacy, and Managing Participants in Class Meetings (August 17, 2020).

Digitizing at UA for the Classroom

Educational Technology Services "Educational Technology Services (ETS) is a central hub providing access to a range of IT services, including educational technology consulting, video services, test scanning, and assistance with learning management systems like Blackboard, VoiceThread and Ensemble Video."

Video Streaming (ITLAL) provides resources to help you digitize your existing media for use in the classroom.

Teaching and Learning (Campus IT) provides instructional technology, tools, and resources to directly support you in your teaching and learning.

Create Your Own Video Content for the Classroom

CamStudio "CamStudio is able to record all screen and audio activity on your computer and create industry-standard AVI video files and using its built-in SWF Producer can turn those AVIs into lean, mean, bandwidth-friendly Streaming Flash videos (SWFs)."

Filmora Scrn The trial version of Filmora9 includes all of the same features as the full version. The only difference is that the exported videos in the trial version are watermarked.

GoodFirms Blog has a list of (7) free, open source screen recording software. 

Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) has free open source software, and is the top pick of the University Libraries IMC. "High performance real time video/audio capturing and mixing. Create scenes made up of multiple sources including window captures, images, text, browser windows, webcams, capture cards and more."