Copyright/Fair Use and Captioning

We are attempting to define policies around use and captioning of third-party videos by our faculty for online course materials. One option we are working with is the use of the site for adding captions to third-party videos. The copyright issue is particularly confusing. I had thought that since the videos (from YouTube and Vimeo) are allowed to stream by the owner, that embedding them on Amara (with the publicly available embed code) and adding our own captions would not cross copyright. However, we saw a forum discussion on the Amara site that raised concern. The question was asked “What videos may be added to / subtitled with Amara?” The answer quoted the Amara Terms of Service: "You affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit.” Then the discussion went on to state that it is a gray area to use Amara as most Amara users have by adding their own captions: “…making subtitles using Amara for thusly streamed videos owned by others is an even shadier zone, because subtitles are derivative work, and most copyright laws say that you must have the permission of the original right holder for that.” But then they go on to state that “if a video can be streamed, then it may be added to Amara, and it may possibly also be subtitled there under a Fair Use copyright restriction, as - at least for the same-language captions…” Here is the link to the forum discussion: Can you please comment on whether copyright permission is needed or not in the use of Can we safely claim Fair Use?


  • Sean_Keegan
    Sean_Keegan Member
    edited June 2018
    Hi Corrine,

    The CCC Accessibility Center is not able to provide specific guidance regarding copyright, captioning, and what constitutes copyright infringement. If there are concerns regarding the Terms of Service of Amara and what is considered legal, I would encourage you to obtain the input of your institution's general counsel. Colleges have the obligation to provide access to individuals with disabilities to the programs, services, and activities of the institution. How access is provided within the context of copyrighted materials and Fair Use is a question that needs to be addressed at the institutional level.

    You may be able to obtain some guidance regarding captioning from Legal Opinion M 02-22 (see While dated, it does outline a series of options to consider in making a decision about captioning materials that may be under copyright protection.

    Hope this memo will help with starting the conversation at the college. I realize this does not answer your specific question about the use of Amara with copyrighted materials.

    Take care,