Feature Films

The Copyright Act allows an educational institution or a person acting under its authority to perform a cinematographic work in class as long as it is for educational purposes, not for profit, on university premises, before an audience consisting primarily of students, and as long as the work is not an infringing copy or the person responsible for the performance has no reasonable grounds to believe that it is an infringing copy.

However, if you want to perform a cinematographic work for non-educational purposes, for example, at a student movie night, you will need to ensure that the work is covered under the university’s entertainment use rights licenses.

The university has entertainment use rights licenses with the two leading Canadian licensing agencies, Audio Cine Films (ACF) and Criterion Pictures. Each agency represents a number of studios, and their license is a “blanket license” covering all or almost all films produced by the studio. Between them the two agencies cover almost all of the major US and Canadian studios and production companies, and many independent producers and foreign films.

The entertainment use license allows broader use rights outside the ordinary classroom context:

  • The films can be shown anywhere on campus.
  • The film can be shown by someone other than an instructor, e.g. a student club, a staff training event.
  • The audience can include students and staff, with some members of the public present (however, see the limitation below).

Please note the following limitations on entertainment use:

  • The event must be free to attend -- no cost or cover charge. Showing films at charity fund-raisers is allowed, but only when the cost is purely by donation
  • The license covers only films that have been released for rental and home purchase; films still in theatrical release are not covered.
  • The primary audience of the event must be members of the institution. Event advertising must be limited to media targeted at the university/college and its students and staff. In the case of print advertising, the advertisements may only appear in campus media (e.g. a student newspaper) and not in general community newspapers.

For questions about the Entertainment Use License, please contact Lorrie Giesbrecht, Coordinator, Administration and Finance, Student Affairs.

Television and Radio Programs

The Copyright Act allows for a television or radio program, except for documentaries, to be recorded off-air for preview purposes provided the copy is kept no longer than 30 days. After 30 days, the copy must be destroyed. If the program is to be used in an educational setting or kept beyond the 30-day preview period, royalties must be paid. Any recording is subject to record keeping provisions.

A radio or television news program or news commentary may be recorded off air and used in an educational setting. A news commentary is a program containing discussions, explanation, analysis, observations or interpretations of the news. There is no limit on the length of time the recording may be kept and payment of royalties is not required.

Records should be kept of any recordings made under either scenario above.


Documentaries are socially relevant non-fiction programs with a creative vision and/or viewpoint and possess elements such as significant research and preparation, pre-scripting, and significant editing.  Some examples of documentary programs would be:The Fifth Estate, W5, 20/20, and The Nature of Things. Documentaries are considered cinematographic works under the Copyright Act and therefore if you have a legally acquired copy it can be shown in class under the exceptions outlined above for feature films. If you want to stream the documentary from an online service or website see the section following.

Streaming Video

The Archer Library has licensed streaming video from a number of providers such as Films on Demand, Criterion-on-Demand and National Film Board of Canada.

If you have found a video on the Internet that you wish to show in class there are a number of criteria that need to be met before streaming them in class or linking to them in UR Courses. First, you should be confident that the video was legally posted to the site you found it on. Many videos found on sites like You Tube have not been posted by the copyright owner and are infringing copies; it is copyright infringement to show an infringing copy posted online. Always look for a copy posted by the copyright owner (e.g. the official You Tube channel of CBC). Second, there should be no clear prohibition against copying and/or educational use posted on the site or in the video. Third, you should not circumvent any technological protection measure (digital lock) in order to show the video. Also, look for a terms of use statement on the site and abide by any relevant conditions or restrictions it might contain.