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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Resources for Faculty: Film Digitization Requests

Using Films in Online and Hybrid Classes

Simpson Library is able to offer limited support for faculty wishing to stream video content as a part of an online or hybrid class.  Copying the film is possible, but it is always to be considered the last resort. 

Researching streaming availability and verifying that the use requested fits within the fair use guidelines of copyright law takes time.  The library asks that faculty submit film requests at least two weeks before the beginning of the semester in which the film is to be used to allow for this.  Requests received after a semester begins will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and the library cannot guarantee that access to the film will be provided by the syllabus date.

Limitations on Digitization Requests

To remain within the scope of current copyright law and the spirit of fair use, we are imposing these limitations on this service:

  • The library has determined that the film cannot be licensed for streaming through one of our streaming services, and that it is not available through third-party services such as Amazon or Netflix. 
  • The library owns a DVD of the film, or the faculty member is willing to lend us a personal copy that was legally acquired.
  • The film has not been copy-protected.
  • The film is required viewing for all students enrolled in a course offered at UMW.  It cannot be used for entertainment or extra-curricular activities. 
  • The film is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the course.  Faculty members requesting a copy of a film are asked to document the learning outcomes addressed by using the film.
  • The film was not marketed primarily as part of a digitally transmitted mediated instructional activity, or part of a textbooks, coursepack, or other material typically purchased or acquired by students for their independent use and retention.
  • Streaming Video Reserve links will expire at the end of each semester. Instructors must submit a new request for each semester the video is needed. Availability of streaming videos changes over time (i.e. a streaming license for a film may become available when it wasn’t previously), prompting a new Fair Use evaluation each semester.
  • The library will retain digitized films in an archive to expedite reuse.  Digitized films will be kept for 2 academic years after the initial use.
  • Use of the film is limited to the students enrolled in the class. The link to the film is only to be shared through the Canvas learning management system.
  • The listing for the film in the Canvas course should notify students that the film is subject to copyright, that it cannot be downloaded for personal use beyond the term of the course, and that it should not be shared with those who are not enrolled in the course. 

Suggested language:  The link to this film is being provided in support of online education.  It is not to be copied or shared with others who are not enrolled in the class.  Copying or sharing the link with others is a violation of copyright law and may result in university sanctions.

Requests That Do Not Qualify

  • VHS tapes
  • Pirated copies
  • Blu-Ray or other video formats
  • International videos in PAL, SECAM or other DVD regions
  • DVDs with digital copy protection

Request Process

  1. The faculty member completes a DVD digitization request form
  2. Library staff check streaming availability.  If the film is available, or can be licensed at a reasonable cost, the library will acquire it and send the faculty member the appropriate links for access.
  3. If the film is available for streaming through a commercial service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, then the faculty member should point students to those services. 
  4. The library evaluates the use of the film and the course objectives it is meant to support against the criteria for fair use.  Requests that do not fall within the fair use guidelines cannot be copied.
  5. If the library already owns a DVD of the requested film, or if the faculty member is willing to lend us a personal copy, we will scan the film and provide the faculty member with a link to the scan.  The faculty member’s copy must be a legally acquired copy of the film. 

Accessibility Considerations

  1. If the film is not in English, the DVD must include English subtitles.
  2. The library will not be responsible for closed captioning of any film that does not already include captions. 

Fair Use Evaluation

To be digitized for Streaming Video Reserve, requests must fall within the realm of fair use and be evaluated under these four factors:

  • The purpose of the use: the video should be required for the course to fulfill a specific learning objective. 
  • The nature of the work: documentaries are more easily justified than feature films.
  • Amount used: only request the amount needed to fulfill the specific educational purpose. Digitizing an entire film is difficult to justify without a demonstrated need.
  • Effect of the use on the market: we cannot digitize content that is easily available on for profit streaming platforms such as Netflix, nor content that is widely available for purchase as a DVD.


James Pape, Outreach and Access Services Librarian

Olivia Key, Reserves & Reading Lists Supervisor

Summer Durrant, Collection Services Librarian