Can I legally show YouTube videos or movies in the classroom?

Can I legally show YouTube videos or movies in the classroom?

Teachers and professors often wonder about content reproduction rights.

More specifically, they ask us questions about projecting YouTube videos and movies in their classrooms:

  • Is it legal?
  • What would otherwise be illegal but is allowed under their Copibec licence?
  • What is never allowed?


Here’s the answer: it depends!!

Sometimes it’s legal to show videos or movies found on the Web but only under certain conditions.

The answer to this question doesn’t depend on your Copibec licence; it falls under the Copyright Act as it applies to all levels of the education sector, including elementary, high school, college and university.


Projecting movies

An exception in the Act allows movies to be projected in a classroom as long as certain provisions are met.

For example, the projection must be done inside an educational institution in a space dedicated to teaching and the audience must consist of students.

The copy of the movie must have been legally acquired, which essentially means either it was purchased or was borrowed from a lending or multimedia library. 

It is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution to do the following act: the performance in public of a cinematographic work, 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.

Further details in the Copyright Act: Section 29.5 criterion D


Showing a YouTube video

There’s also an exception for material available on the Web but you have to pay attention to certain criteria.


As is the case when you project a movie in class, the video must be shown to an audience made up mostly of students.

Legal copy

You have to confirm that the online content was made available legally before you can show it in class. Otherwise, it would be an infringement and you’re not allowed to show the video.

  • Example: if you find a video from an artist on a YouTube channel other than the artist’s official channel, it’s probably an illegal copy.

If you’re not sure, go back to the source and try to contact the copyright owners to confirm you’re using a legal copy.

Terms of use

On sites other than YouTube, be sure to read the terms of use.

If you see warnings such as “Reproduction prohibited” or “No classroom projection allowed”, you don’t have permission to use the content from the site, even for education purposes.


Technological protection measures (TPMs)

What about showing copyrighted content in class if it’s protected by a technological protection measure (TPM)?

TPMs such as digital locks are intended to prevent or limit the reproduction and display of copyrighted content and may even prevent or limit access to the site or content.

It’s possible for video content to be protected by TPMs.

Important! A digital lock doesn’t refer only to a TPM found within a document. It can also mean access is limited by a password or subscription.

Let’s be clear: the content you display must be accessible to the general public without needing to subscribe or make a payment in order to access it.

If the content is available only through a subscription or fee, you can’t use it for education purposes.


When in doubt, don’t!

It’s better to find another document that you can use without having to worry about complying with the law.

Recap — 3 questions to ask

  1. Was the online content made available legally?
    • If not, you can’t use it.
  2. Is there a warning about not using the content?
    • If so, you can’t use it.
  3. Is there a technological protection measure (TPM) to prevent use?
    • If so, you can’t bypass the measure.


Cite your source

If your analysis is conclusive and you’re allowed to use the content you’ve found, don’t forget to indicate your references, including the author’s name, the publication’s title and the site where the content was found.

Have a question? Contact our Education Agents