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What are films?

A film is a recording on any medium from which a moving image may be reproduced (including video and DVD).

Film can be produced in any medium – DVD, videotape, MP4 from the web, or film reels – except television. Films exclude material broadcast over radio, television or cable, which are covered under Radio and television broadcasts.

Films typically incorporate a number of other types of copyright work. These may include the story (a literary work), a script (a dramatic work), the design of sets (artistic works), the design of costumes (artistic works), the music score (a musical work), the sound track (a sound recording) and the performers' rights.

The owners of copyright in a film have the exclusive right to copy the film and issue or play the film to the public.

Under the Copyright Act:

  • a film may be copied by a teacher or student for research or private study
  • a film may be copied by or on behalf of a person giving a lesson for instructional purposes relating to a lesson about how to make films or film-sound tracks, provided that no charge is made for the supply of the copy.

Remember that you may not be able to place one whole copy of a work on a school intranet. This may amount to authorising multiple copies of the work, and would not be covered by the exceptions or permissions that allow only one copy of a work to be made, or multiple copies of only part of a work to be made. For a more detailed discussion of electronic copying and works on the Internet, see Electronic copying and works on the Internet.

The Copyright Act does not allow you to change the film without the author's permission. For a discussion of moral rights, see What rights do authors have?


Copying a film for the purpose of research or private study

This exception allows fair dealing with a sound recording for a person's own research or private study. When considering whether a particular instance of copying amounts to fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study, the following considerations must be taken into account:

  • the purpose of the copying
  • the nature of the work copied
  • whether the work could have been obtained within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price
  • the effect of the copying on the potential market for, or value of, the work
  • the amount and substantiality of the part of the work copied in relation to the whole work.

This exception does not permit the making of multiple copies of a work (that is, more than one copy of the same work or part of the work on the same occasion). Accordingly, you cannot direct your students to each make a copy of the same material, as that is equivalent to authorising the making of multiple copies.

Making copies of a film for lessons about films and film sound tracks

This exception allows a copy of a film to be made by or on behalf of a person giving or receiving a lesson about how to make films or film sound tracks. The copy may be made in the course of preparation for instruction, for use in the course of instruction, in the course of instruction, or after the course of instruction, by or on behalf of the person giving or receiving the lesson. No charge may be made for the supply of the copy of the film.

Showing a film for instructional purposes

This exception allows a student or teacher to show a film (including hired or purchased videos or DVDs) in a school, for instructional purposes, provided that the audience consists only of teachers, students, and others directly associated with the activities of the school. This means that you may not show a film in any public event at the school.

You may not show a hired or purchased video or DVD in your school simply for entertainment purposes. For example, you can show the film Shakespeare in Love when it relates to your drama course, but you may not show it to your drama class merely to entertain them at the end of term.

You may not show a hired or purchased video or DVD in your school to an audience that includes parents, siblings, or other members of the public. For example, you cannot show any video or DVD as part of a school fundraiser for friends of the school. While the money may be for an educational purpose, such a showing is considered to be a showing in public which breaches the Copyright Act, as well as the terms of purchase and hire.

Remember that schools are responsible for complying with the censorship ratings on films.

The Screenrights Licence supports the copying and communication of audio-visual material made available legally on the internet for educational use. The use of SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand e.g. Netflix) platforms in an educational setting may be limited by the SVOD platform’s terms and conditions on a user account. The accounts created on most commercial SVOD platforms allow only personal use and may limit any other use, including use in an educational setting or other types of non-personal screening such as in a classroom.

Educational resource centres such as ETV and ClickView copy material legally from broadcasts and the internet under the Screenrights Licence. These online streaming platforms provide educators at licensed institutions with tens of thousands of programs and films curated for educational use.


You may copy programmes for use in lessons if your school holds the following licence: