Streaming Media in the Time of COVID-19

Streaming Media in the Time of COVID-19

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is plain to see that COVID-19 has altered the future of teaching and learning, or at least it made it interesting, particularly when it comes to streaming film and audio.  Thankfully, the pandemic didn't magically alter copyright, fair use, or public domain laws.  Teaching and learning with audiovisual materials remain governed by these regulations.  What the pandemic did, however, is to mainstream awareness of issues surrounding streaming, test the extent at which educators understand and comply with streaming rights.

What follows is one account of streaming challenges and how a library liaison worked with faculty to navigate streaming issues and gave them options that allowed them to meet their teaching goals.


Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.  It is pre-COVID-19 time. Video materials for classes were purchased and made available by the University Libraries for students to view in the library, or for faculty to screen them in class.  Some videos were even available from one of our many streaming databases to be streamed online, using IP authentication, in class or remotely.  Sometimes, short clips or whole documentaries were streamed using platforms like YouTube™.  Other times, faculty would share their own DVD copies, in class.

Now, let's forward to COVID-19 time, what has changed?  Well, much has and yet, so little did.  Faculty and students can no longer rely on physical spaces, such as classes and library viewing rooms, to meet the 'educational' or 'personal' to qualify for copyright and fair use exceptions.  Teaching and learning in COVID-19 time rely heavily on streaming (as opposed to screening).  Inconsistent internet connections represented additional challenges, making synchronous learning a less desirable option, or complicated, at the least.


Library liaisons are inherently information dispensers.  Many of us specialize in certain disciplines.  Others are experienced teaching and learning designers.  At a virtual department meeting, concerns over streaming were discussed.  As an adjunct instructor, I shared their concerns.  As a librarian, I saw an opportunity.  I quickly reviewed and updated the library's film studies research guide to contain information on teaching with streaming media such as term definitions, links to the TEACH ACT and conducting a fair use analysis to help with making streaming decisions, clarifications on using streaming platforms like Netflix, and links to copyright information and the University Libraries copyright page

The research guide, which I shared this guide with my liaison departments, is intended to be a live resource that is periodically updated with relevant information.  I am already working on providing teachers and learners with resources for best practices and am open to feedback and suggestions.  If you wish to provide feedback, please contact me at

- Ethan Pullman, Senior Librarian/Library Instruction Coordinator