Believe it or not, I am actually trying to write a blog piece about something other than this topic of UCLA and the legality of streaming entire videos online. But this isn't it.
In a statement released today, UCLA announced that it will restart its former practice of streaming (entire) movies/videos within an accessed controlled online classroom. You can see this announcement here. The news release article contains links to a principals document that outlines the rationale, if you will, UCLA is advancing.
I find the document confusing from a legal standpoint. To me, fair use is tangled in with 110(1), the face-to-face performance exception which is further tangled up with 110(2), the TEACH Act and topped off with the concept of time-shifting (from the Sony case) and the argument that virtual classrooms should be no different than physical classrooms regardless of how the law reads. Favorable pieces of one section of the law are taken out of context and combined with pieces from somewhere else. The idea that the same performance can be in both 110(1) and 110(2) simultaneously is very confusing.
For example, if streaming entire movies online within a virtual class qualifies as face-to-face teaching (110(1) because classrooms today should have no walls and the online class should be no different than the physical class in terms of what can be shown, (which, btw, I agree that there should be no difference in what you can show between these two types of classes; I don't necessarily agree that's how the law reads), then what is the point of 110(2), the TEACH Act? Whether you apply 110(1) or 110(2) hinges on whether you are "transmitting" the performance or display. That is the fork in the road.
If (ignoring the definition of transmission in the act which is quite clear) streaming the movie is not transmitting it, then you can stay in 110(1), the F2F section and show the whole thing. Furthermore, if streaming is not a transmission, then nothing that goes over the internet within an online class is either. So when would 110(2) apply? Never, right? Why even have it? Always use 110(1) where there are no restrictions on the type and amount of a work that can be performed or displayed, yes?
But if streaming is transmitting, then 110(2) is triggered, with all its conditions, including the restriction on performances to portions that are pedagogically necessary. As has been stated in other forums, there may be circumstances where showing the entire work meets that standard; but as an all-encompassing, general rule? I don't think so because it negates the whole "portion" language. Section 110(2), TEACH, is not going to support a policy that says - ahead of time - the entirety of every film is pedagogically necessary. If so, the performance language would read the same as the display language in 110(2), and it doesn't.
Before going too much farther, I should state, in very strong terms, that I agree completely that there should be no difference in the type and amount of materials available to the F2F student and the online student. Section 110(2) has never made sense, with its different treatment of students, even before passage of TEACH in 2002. Before then, it was more restrictive and treated cable students (even closed cable) different than F2F, where movies were concerned. So, before I am condemned as a party-poop, know that I am on-board with the UCLA sense of rightness and the way things should be; I'm not so sure that the law is. And it would be great if it were amended to reflect this but Congress has to do that.
To me, the strongest potential support for this streaming practice would be to rely on Section 107, fair use. Concluding that the fair use analysis will always support use of an entire movie, no matter what it is or how it is used, pre-emptively will be a challenge. I don't know if it will succeed in this area, but the practice has been employed for years in many fair use based e-reserves like ours.
In sum, the UCLA statement is a mixture of a strong appeal to values and a sense of the way things should be with a less robust legal foundation. This debate may well develop into litigation the way matters are escalating.