Seven Fair-Use Guidelines for Using Video in Your Classes

In 1981, Congress created guidelines for the fair use of videotape in the classroom. Congress allows taping of programs from regular broadcast television by nonprofit education institutions for instructional use. Note that cable and satellite programs are not considered “fair use” under these guidelines, so programming on those channels is more strictly protected.

The conditions for use of taped broadcasts are:

1. Broadcasts must be from “free” television, unless a satellite or cable network and the copyright holder have granted permission for taping.

2. Broadcasts must be recorded at the time of broadcast and cannot be held for more than 45 days, at which point the tape must be erased.

3. Each class can view the tape only one time, and that time must come within 10 days of the day of taping (not counting vacations, holidays, etc.). After the 10-day period, the teacher may continue to use the tape for his or her evaluation, but not in the classroom, up until the 45-day limit.

4. Recordings must be made at the specific direction of a teacher, instead of administrators or staff in anticipation of a later request by a teacher.

5. Copies of the copy can only be made if they are legitimately needed by other educators.

6. The program must be recorded in its entirety and cannot be altered, but the program does not need to be shown in its entirety.

7. The school must have guidelines that assure adherence to the above conditions.

Congress also weighed in on fair use of videocassette rentals that have the label, “For Home Use Only.” In general, educators have reasonably wide berth to use these videos if they are related to the education (not entertainment) of students. The videos may even be used for entertainment if a specific agreement is made at the time of rental, which is a blanket agreement that some schools have with video stores.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at