Using Film in Courses: Policy & Options

Refer to this guide when you have questions about using films in your online or face to face courses at Portland State University

Library Statement

Portland State University Library, in order to support student success, collects and makes available required course content and research material in many formats. The PSU Library supports the legal use of video and streaming video to assist in instruction as well as the research and study activities of PSU community members.  

Streaming Video in Courses

Requests for Streaming Media for Library Acquisitions

The PSU Library will work with faculty to provide streaming media for their courses when possible. However, due to budgetary limitations, the library will only purchase or license new streaming media when all the below criteria apply: 

  • The film is NOT available via commercial rental (Amazon, Netflix, etc.--if so, students must make their own arrangements to view)
  • The film is required viewing for fully online, remote, or hybrid courses
  • By direct request to a liaison librarian OR completing a request form
  • Availability and licensing terms for the library, accessibility criteria, and technical specifications 
  • Cost and available funding


  • Only faculty may request the purchase of streaming film (students will be directed to contact their faculty to request)
  • Depending on vendor response time and staff availability, please allow at least two weeks for activation of a new streaming film

Duration of Licenses

Often, a streaming license is for one year from purchase date. Please refer to the library catalog’s public note about access dates, or check with your liaison librarian to ensure that the library will have access to your film for the duration of your course. If no date is indicated in the catalog, the title should remain in the catalog.


license expiration note in film record

What about films that are unavailable for commercial or institutional licensing?

If a film cannot be legally licensed by the library from the film distributor, please work with your library liaison to identify a comparable alternative. The Library may be able to contact filmmakers for permission to digitize an existing DVD copy, otherwise, the Library may not be able to provide the film. This is often a source of frustration for faculty, as key films do sometimes have expired film rights, and we apologize. For more information please see our FAQ page 

Using Film in Zoom Classes

Increased online course offerings over Zoom leads to some questions about media use in this environment. Please contact the library if you have specific questions about allowed use of films on Zoom, but here is some information:

  • You may stream films and clips from the following providers in a live Zoom session: Academic Video Online, PBS Video Collection, Docuseek, and Kanopy. 
  • However! If you are recording the class session, this permission does not apply, as you are making a copy of the film. 
  • Playing physical media (DVDs) over Zoom without PPR: this is allowed for DVD clips. For Full DVDs, check if it is Fair Use. Clips are okay for recorded classes, but NOT a full DVD. 
  • Consumer-Licensed Streaming Services are almost entirely prohibited to use in class (this includes content from Disney+, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix), and must be viewed individually by students. Exceptions are and Netflix content with and Educational License (in these cases, live streaming is okay, but not recorded sessions). 
  • Quality of audio visual content: this varies. In some cases, streaming works well over Zoom, but this often depends on the instructor and students' individual bandwidth and internet connections. 

Please note, this information is subject to change. The Library recommends the best practice for using films in remote courses is to have students view the material individually. 

Educational and Commercial Platforms

Educational Streaming Collections

The PSU Library subscribes to several streaming subscription services, such as Academic Video Online, Films on Demand, Docuseek, and more, with films that can be accessed by students, staff, and faculty on campus and remotely using their Odin accounts. This content can also be embedded into online course pages. We encourage faculty to work with their liaison librarian to locate film content to use in courses. When planning a syllabus, it is recommended to check the library’s holdings to see if there are films that will work for your class.

Commercial Platforms: please note

The proliferation of commercial streaming platforms that are available to individuals such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, iTunes, Google Play, etc. offer low cost streaming options to students. While the library endeavors to keep costs down for our students, due to budget restrictions, films available on these sites are not licensed by the library. In these cases, students must make their own arrangements to view the film if it must be streamed. 

To find out whether a film can be streamed through commercial rental or subscription sites, search for the film's title on one of these sites:

Free options from public libraries

Public libraries in our vicinity (Multnomah County, Washington County, Clackamas County, Fort Vancouver Regional Library System) offer streaming video through Kanopy and Hoopla with an active public library card. Patrons are limited to set amount of films viewed per month, which varies by library system. All PSU students, faculty, and staff can acquire a Multnomah County Library card. Please see for details. 

Use of DVDs in Classroom & Other Settings

Normally, DVDs in our collection do not carry Public Performance Rights (PPR), meaning they are only for individual use and should not be shown publicly. However, you may show DVDs in class, as protected under section 110(1) of the Copyright Law, which allows instructors at non-profit educational institutions to show films in the course of face-to-face teaching, provided that the video was lawfully made and acquired. 

Note: if you are planning on screening a DVD outside of the classroom (for example, for a student club or in a lounge), you do need to secure Public Performance Rights

For information about screening DVDs in your class, please see the library webpage on this topic

About this Guide

Guide Owner: Elsa Loftis, Humanities and Acquisitions Librarian

We would like to acknowledge the work of other librarians' guides, and informative copyright information in the making and adapting  of this guide, specifically:

Other Information: