For your convenience, questions and answers are grouped under five basic categories:
What are educational off-air recording rights?
They are rights allowing educators to record TV programs off the air or from cable and to use them for a specified time for preview or lesson planning and with students in the classroom.
What other terms are used to mean "educational off-air recording rights"?
Educational off-air recording rights are also known as "school re-record rights," "school rights," "taping rights," and "educational rights."
Are there Fair Use Guidelines providing for off-air recording rights?
Yes. The Fair Use Guidelines for Off-Air Recording apply to "all television programs broadcast [or cablecast] by television stations for reception by the general public without charge." Educators must observe these guidelines for most TV programs. However, if a special agreement has been negotiated with a program's copyright holder, educational rights may extend beyond fair use. PBS pioneered such extended rights.
Why are off-air recording rights desirable?
Off-air recording rights benefit teachers by allowing them to review TV programs and use them in class without copyright infringement. They benefit program producers by promoting the programs to educators for later, long-term purchase as recordings while at the same time limiting free use to a particular time period.
How do off-air recording rights promote good programming?
Producers depend on revenue from the recording sales of their programs to allow them to create new products and, in the case of advances on the sale of a program, to help fund current projects. Educators, enabled to use the programs in class before they purchase, help to ensure that funding supports quality educational programming that they know and trust.
Do educational off-air recording rights allow for cable rebroadcast?
No. Educational off-air recording rights do not relate directly to cable rebroadcast. Cable rebroadcast may be part of a set of broadcast rights negotiated between PBS and producers, and subsequently offered to local public television stations. In many cases, though not all, a PBS program contract will include the clearance for a PBS program to be rebroadcast over a cable channel that is owned and operated by a PBS member station.
Note: The content on this website is provided for informational purposes only and may not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult an attorney with expertise in copyright law for advice relating to your specific circumstances and activities.
Are PBS extended rights available for Instructional Television (ITV) programming aired by local stations?
The extended rights discussed in this document are not the same as those negotiated for ITV programs. ITV rights are usually arranged between ITV distributors and local public television stations, which should be contacted for more information.
What is the relationship between PBS and program producers?
PBS is a distributor of TV programming. PBS typically acquires programs for a limited time period for broadcast on public television stations nationwide. Programming comes from a variety of sources: member public television stations, independent producers, and domestic and international distributors. Generally, the programs are not produced or owned by PBS itself. However, PBS can and does negotiate with program producers to acquire the best educational rights possible, often making extended educational off-air recording rights a condition of program acceptance.
What if a teacher cannot or does not wish to arrange off-air recording?
Recordings of many PBS programs are available for purchase at the PBS Educational Media website or by calling 800-344-3337. Please note that some programs come with educational public performance licenses while others do not. Consult the individual item's description or contact a PBS Educational Media customer service representative (800-424-7963) for specific product information.
What if a teacher misses the recording of a broadcast of an extended rights program?
PBS programs are often rebroadcast a few times per year, so teachers should check their local listings or contact their local public television station to find out if and when a program may be rebroadcast. Teachers can then record the program when it is rebroadcast and use the recording for preview and curriculum integration for the remainder of the educational rights period - whether the rights are based on the date of the first recording by that individual teacher or based on the first national broadcast of that program.
May a teacher record a PBS program at home - such as on his or her VCR - and then use it with students in the classroom?
Yes. Teachers may record programs at home and use the recordings in class for face-to-face instructional purposes for the duration of the educational rights period. Programs recorded at home for instructional use in the classroom are subject to the same rules as those recorded in school. They should be similarly labeled with program title, recording date, erasure or destruction date and teacher name. The erasure or destruction date should be strictly observed. Currently, you must record from a broadcast TV signal or cable signal if either of these is available in your area. Recordings made directly from satellite are not protected by PBS extended educational rights unless you: (a) live in an unserved area, where broadcast TV and cable options are absent; and (b) are an authorized subscriber of a DBS service.
What does an educator do when the preview period (extended rights) for a program has expired?
A teacher may purchase a recording from PBS Educational Media (800-344-3337) to replace the preview recording or obtain permission for continued classroom use from the copyright holder, often the program producer. The preview recording should be erased or destroyed.
Where can educators find out about the educational off-air recording rights for a particular PBS program?
Look for the following resources from your local station, which will identify PBS programs with extended off-air recording rights for preschool and K-12 teachers:
- Monthly program guide
- Newsletter to local schools
- Education section of local station websites
Where should I go first: to my local public television station or to the national offices of PBS?
In general, information from your local public television station will be more complete, because your station has records about local broadcast dates for primetime and children's programming and, in many cases, about its own unique educational and ITV programming.
Why does PBS provide extended off-air rights for programs that are available for purchase through PBS Educational Media?
PBS predicates the negotiation of extended off-air recording rights on the needs of educators to use programming at a time when it is applicable to their curricula. Off-air recording rights that are extended beyond 10 days allow teachers time to record and preview a program, test its appropriateness in their lessons, and make an informed recommendation for purchase of a recording and/or an extended license from the copyright holder. PBS Educational Media continues to provide quality program packages for educators beyond what a self-made recording can provide. PBS program packages often include classroom resources, such as teacher's guides, indexes helping teachers locate pertinent segments of a program easily, and even teaching aids such as graphs or charts. Furthermore, rights for PBS Educational Media products often extend well beyond one year and have fewer limitations than off-air recording rights. (Please note that PBS Educational Media products are priced differently than PBS products sold through the Shop PBS site, because they often include rights for in-school audio/visual use as well as the aforementioned teaching aids. See individual product descriptions for details.)
How do rights for products sold on PBS Educational Media differ from rights for products sold on the Shop PBS site?
Products sold through the regular Shop PBS site are cleared for at-home, personal entertainment purposes only. While limited use of these programs in schools may be acceptable under federal copyright law, the programs must be used in face-to-face teaching settings only and cannot be displayed in libraries, large group settings, or over closed-circuit in-school networks. The PBS Educational Media site, on the other hand, offers products that may include indexed recordings and other teacher resources, making them the most valuable educational audiovisual resources offered by PBS.
Can a school record programming from a PBS satellite feed?
Usually no. The PBS satellite signal is a private communication between PBS, its member stations and licensed users only. Recording directly from the PBS satellite feed by schools is permitted only if:
- The school is in a defined unserved area, where it is physically unable to receive a public television broadcast signal or cable retransmission; AND
- The school is an authorized user of a DBS service; OR
- The school has obtained an off-satellite recording license.
If a live classroom presentation is rebroadcast (for example, on a distance learning network) to registered students at other locations, may it include video material from a PBS program?
Although extended educational rights secured by PBS for general-audience programs do not include the right for educational institutions to electronically retransmit the programs, the TEACH Act may provide some limited rights to distance educators. Please consult Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act for additional information.
Do the educational rights secured by PBS permit the rebroadcast of programs or program segments over a closed-circuit network?
Yes. Transmission of the program over a closed circuit is permitted only if the transmission does not go beyond a single building, cluster or campus.
Who may use extended rights, and how may they be used?
Recording and use of PBS programs with extended educational rights is available to teachers of preschool and K-12 children in the United States. A school library/media specialist or parent volunteer may also do the recording, but only at the specific request of a classroom teacher. These rights apply in instructional settings, including but not limited to day care, preschool and auditoriums, within the rights period.
Do extended rights apply to school library/media specialists?
Yes, as long as they are serving as a teacher or acting on behalf of an individual teacher. A school library/media specialist may record programs only with a prior request from a teacher.
Do extended rights apply to parent volunteers?
Yes. However, parents may record programs for school use only with a prior request from a teacher. Such efforts are generally coordinated through a school library/media specialist.
May a school library/media specialist or parent anticipate teacher requests by making recordings ahead of time or arranging to make one copy available for each school in the district?
Neither alternative is appropriate. A teacher's request for a specific program or episode of a series must be made prior to recording. Any recordings made without a specific teacher request will not be considered Fair Use. Furthermore, requests must be made on an episode-by-episode basis. A teacher may not, for instance, request that every episode of NOVA be recorded but should, instead, request specific episodes as needed. Please note that in the case of certain series, rights may differ from episode to episode.
May a school library/media specialist or parent volunteer use extended rights to help develop a central library of programs?
No. The intent of extended educational rights for PBS programs is to provide access for teachers and their students - the intended end-users of the materials - for a specific period of time. To legally create long-term central libraries of programming, library/media specialists should purchase recordings and/or off-air recording licenses that convey "life of recording" retention rights. For more information, visit PBS Educational Media or call 800-344-3337.
Do extended rights apply to institutions of higher learning, such as community and junior colleges, four-year colleges, and universities?
No. Instructors and staff members at institutions of higher learning are not covered by extended rights. They may purchase off-air or off-satellite recording licenses or recordings for some PBS programs with educational rights by calling PBS Educational Media at 800-344-3337.
Do extended rights apply to teachers-in-training enrolled in a college or university?
Extended rights apply to teachers-in-training only when they are student teaching and use the recording in an instructional setting.
If the rights say they are "from original broadcast (OB)," what is the easiest way to determine an original broadcast date?
Original broadcast dates are provided at PBS Pressroom: Program Schedules & Listings. If the information you need is not available online, contact your local public television station and ask for assistance from the programming department.
Why can't there be just ONE extended rights period, without variation?
PBS is not the owner or copyright holder of the majority of the programs it distributes. Therefore, we must try to honor the interests of the educators and public television stations we serve and the program producers who own the copyrights. While many programs come to PBS with pre-negotiated contracts, producers are generally interested in assisting PBS in its public service mission.
Are there circumstances under which the initial rights period can be further extended? For example, if a program is rebroadcast by PBS during the rights period?
No. An extended educational rights period of one year from broadcast means that you can record a program one time and retain and use it for one year from the date you first recorded it, regardless of the date of prior or subsequent broadcasts. Once you record the program, label the recording with the date it was recorded and note one year from that date as the erasure/destruction date.
Do extended off-air recording rights apply to students and teachers in Canadian schools?
Differences between U.S. and Canadian copyright law may impact the applicability of off-air recording rights to Canadian educators. Information on orders to Canada may be found here. Canadian teachers, educational institutions and others should consult an attorney with expertise in Canadian copyright law for advice relating to their specific circumstances and activities.
Note: The content on this Web site is provided for informational purposes only and may not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult an attorney with expertise in copyright law for advice relating to your specific circumstances and activities.