Showing videos in your class? Be aware of potential technical limitations.

Instructors who plan on using streaming media or DVDs in a classroom need to be aware of possible complications due to the copyright protection software some manufacturers and service providers use.

The basic rule: Test all media – whether DVDs or streaming media services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify or Kanopy – in your classroom before using it in class. If there is a problem, contact or call 49-44000.

“Content providers are adding layers of software protection that are meant to thwart pirating activities,” says Byron Reed, learning spaces director for ITaP. “The problem is that this software sometimes interferes with our classroom projection system and refuses to playback on those systems.”

ITaP has developed workarounds for many of the problems. Some can be solved by simply turning off the computer monitor so that the media only appears on the projection screen. But copyright protection software is constantly evolving, so what worked last year might not work now.

There are some tips, however, that can help avoid problems:

  • Use the classroom’s Blu-Ray player, and not its computer, to play DVDs.
  • Test online streaming content on the classroom computer; streaming content from a laptop to the classroom’s projection system may also be blocked so test laptops as well.
  • Avoid using streaming sticks, like Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV.
  • Use the wireless display adaptors provided in several classrooms including WALC and RAWL.

In general, the use of legally obtained copyrighted video is permissible in a classroom as a right of fair use. The University Copyright Office can provide additional guidance about using copyrighted and licensed material.

“If you’re using video in your classroom, you need to go to your classroom and test it, preferably a few days before your next class,” says Reed. “We work with people to find a solution, but testing in advance of class and contacting us in advance instead of during class is preferable.”

Having a problem with streaming videos or DVDs in your classroom? Contact or 49-44000.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: August 13, 2019