Showing films in the Modern Languages classroom – It is allowed?

In the last few days of term, many teachers choose to show films to their students. Language teachers are prone to showing films in the target language for example. But is it legal to do so or are they unwittingly breaching copyrights?

The answer is not straightforward. Films are protected by copyright laws and you usually require a licence to show them – but there are exceptions.

Educational purposes

You can show films in the classroom for educational purposes as long as you are genuinely using the work in question in your teaching. For example, you could be showing a scene from a film and follow it up with questions about the characters, the language used, and so on.

Under ‘fair use’ policy, you may even make copies of an extract (but not the whole film) for your students to study it at home.

However, you should under no circumstances show an unlawful copy of a film. This would constitute a breach of copyright and you could be prosecuted.

Entertainment purposes

It is important to note that you cannot show a film purely for entertainment purposes (e.g. during wet playtime, at after school clubs or on the last day of term) without a licence. In order to show films, your school should acquire a licence from the Motion Picture Licensing Company and/or Filmbank. These companies represent different film studios so you’ll need to make sure they cover the films you want. An annual school licence costs around £100 (more or less depending on the number of students) so it’s fairly affordable for most schools.

However, if you work in a state-funded English school, there is good news: The Department for Education is likely to have already procured a Public Video Screening Licence (PVSL) on behalf of your school. Note that this licence does not cover commercial use (i.e. showing films to a paying audience). Licence holders are required to submit a report on a quarterly basis detailing the films screened in their premises. This is to ensure correct reporting to the film studios and distributors participating in the scheme.

Independent fee-paying schools can purchase a licence through the Independent Association of Prep Schools or the Centre for Education and Finance Management.

Netflix and streaming platforms

French TVThe Netflix user agreement overtly conveys that “the Software is only for your own personal, non-commercial use”. When signing an agreement with Netflix, you are agreeing to only stream videos in the privacy of your own home. Consequently you cannot use your personal Netflix account to stream video content in your classroom. However, many teachers have sought verbal assurances from Netflix. Reportedly, some have been told over the phone that using their account in that context should be OK, but Netflix will not provide written confirmation. Others were told that it was not permitted.

Our advice would be to exercise caution and refrain from using Netflix or similar streaming services. When you stream from the platform, Netflix can identify you by your personal user account; they can also see your school’s IP address.

It appears that Netflix has been turning a blind eye to teachers streaming content from their platform. They have not to date prosecuted a school for violation of their terms of service. Of course, it does not mean they never will. If they choose to prosecute, they will have all of the information and evidence they need to fine you and your employer.

Note: The advice above applied to schools in the UK. Rules and regulations may vary from country to country.

Finding foreign language films and series on Netflix

When you log in to Netflix, you’re typically shown a selection of the most popular programmes – i.e. the predictable blockbusters. Thankfully, Netflix also recommends films and series it thinks you might like based on your viewing habits. If you’ve watched a few French films for example, Netflix might suggest a few popular French programmes. Sadly, those recommendations are only a tiny sample of what you can actually access. You are likely to be kept in the dark as to all the other foreign language gems available on Netflix – unless you know where to look.

How to unlock hidden foreign language films and series?

You can try the search function, but unless you know exactly what you’re looking for (i.e. the title, main actors or the director of a specific film), it’s difficult to get recommendations. And if you try to type keywords such as “French” or “Spanish” you might just find programmes with Dawn French or a documentary about holidaying in Spain.

There is a better way to find foreign content, which most Netflix users are unaware of. There are hidden categories you can use to access content in specific languages. To start with, log in to your Netflix account then click on one of the following categories:

If you know Netflix category shortcuts for other languages, please share using the comments section.