So you want to digitize your physical media

Digitizing media can be time-consuming, especially if you're new to digitizing, so it's best to explore some other options first.

If you haven't had any luck finding a digital version or substitute for the title you want to stream, you will need to secure permission from the copyright holder before you digitize it. This applies to all media - even if it's your own personal copy, or a copy that belongs to Penfield Library.

If you're not sure where to start:

  • Try contacting the publisher of the media. Publisher websites often have specific departments or offices to direct copyright questions to. Your librarian Liaison is also happy to help you locate their contact information.
  • If you can't find the copyright owner that way, or the publisher has gone out of business, we recommend you contact the Copyright Clearance Center. They can tell you if anyone lays claim to the copyright; if so, written permission from them should be sought.
  • If the copyright owner cannot be found, this doesn't mean you're exempt and can digitize the media without permission. We have more information about fair use below, and you can use the Fair Use Evaluator to help advise you. Keep in mind, though, that our librarians are not lawyers. Unfortunately, we can't tell you if something qualifies for fair use.

Here are a few important things to know about copyright & media:

  • Media recorded from an on-air broadcast may not be converted. Copyright law states that this type of media may only be kept for 45 days, and used once in a class during that time.
  • Motion pictures on DVD (as defined in 17 U.S. Code§101) that are legally acquired and protected by the Content Scrambling System may be converted under certain circumstances (17 U.S. Code§1201). Only short portions of the video are allowed to be used for the purpose of criticism or commenting. Screen capture is the preferred non-circumventing conversion technique. If screen capture does not produce video of sufficient quality for the purpose of criticism or comment, then other circumventing technologies may be employed. Circumvention of the Content Scrambling System is only allowed for noncommercial videos, documentary videos, and nonfiction multimedia ebooks offering film analysis, and for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts by university faculty and students.


Digitizing media for online learning environments is treated differently than media used in face-to-face learning environments, since digitized media has the capability to be shared in online environments beyond the learning management system. Therefore, you will want to treat Fair Use with caution.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act defines fair use as follows:

[T]he fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include --

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
  • and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Unfortunately, there is no clear formula that you can use to determine the boundaries of fair use. Instead, a court will weigh these four factors holistically in order to determine whether the use in question is a fair use. In order for you to assess whether your use of another's copyrighted work will be permitted, you will need an understanding of why fair use applies, and how courts interpret each part of the test (DMLP, 2015).

Now you get to digitize your media! We have the equipment for digitizing here at Penfield, and we can teach you how to use it. (We won't convert it for you, however.) If you'd like to do this:

  1. Contact our Learning Commons Coordinator, Chris Hebblethwaite ( - he'll need proof that you have permission from the copyright holder.
  2. Next, contact our Learning Technologies Librarian, Sharona Ginsburg ( She can show you the hardware and software we have available for digitization.

Get in touch with Dan Laird (, Oswego's Media & Design Specialist. He can upload the file to a streaming media server (or advise you on how to do so) so that you can easily embed it into Blackboard.

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