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Copyright and Fair Use Resources: Educational Exceptions

Resources for copyright and fair use questions


In Person Instruction

Copyright law provides a set of narrowly defined limitations which allow use of copyrighted material in the classroom without permission from the copyright holder. These can be found in 17 U.S. Code § 110 (1). To qualify under section 110 the use must fall into these perimeters: 

  • be located in a classroom or similar location devoted to instruction
  • be engaged in face to face instruction 
  • be a non-profit education institution 

If all of the above conditions are met, then students and instructors can engage in certain activities which are normally protected by copyright and would require permission from the copyright holder, provided the copy was legally obtained.

Examples include:

  • playing a movie for students in class
  • students performing a play in class
  • playing a song in class
  • displaying a picture in class

Online Instruction

The TEACH Act is found in 17 U.S. Code § 110 (2) and extends the exception to online instruction under certain circumstances. Only certain works are covered and only for accredited nonprofit education institutions. 

Important works excluded from the TEACH Act include:

  • works primarily produced or marketed for in-class use in the digital distance education market
  • works the instructor knows or has reason to believe were not lawfully made or acquired
  • textbooks, coursepacks and other materials typically purchased by students individually

 The TEACH Act covers works an instructor would show or play during in person instruction such as a movie or music clips, images of artworks, or a poetry reading. It does not cover materials an instructor may want students to study, read, listen to or watch on their own time outside of class. Instructors will have to rely on other rights they may have to post those materials, such as the fair use statute, or get permission. 

TEACH Act Resources

TEACH Act Checklist

Ready to use course materials under the TEACH Act? Use this handy checklist to make sure:

__My institution is a nonprofit accredited educational institution or a government agency

__It has a policy on the use of copyrighted materials

__It provides accurate information to faculty, students and staff about copyright

__Its systems will not interfere with technological controls within the materials I want to use

__The materials I want to use are specifically for students in my class

__Only those students will have access to the materials

__The materials will be provided at my direction during the relevant lesson

__The materials are directly related and of material assistance to my teaching content

__My class is part of the regular offerings of my institution

__I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright

__I will use technology that reasonably limits the students' ability to retain or further distribute the materials

__I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of the class session

__I will store the materials on a secure server and transmit them only as permitted by this law

__I will not make copies other than the one I need to make the transmission

__The materials are of the proper type and amount the law authorizes:

  • Entire performances of nondramatic literary and musical works
  • Reasonable and limited parts of a dramatic literary, musical, or audiovisual work
  • Displays of other works, such as images, in amounts similar to typical displays in face-to-face teaching

__The materials are not among those the law specifically excludes from its coverage:

  • Materials specifically marketed for classroom use for digital distance education
  • Copies I know or should know are illegal
  • Textbooks, coursepacks, electronic reserves and similar materials typically purchased individually by the students for independent review outside the classroom or class session

__If I am using an analog original, I checked before digitizing it to be sure:

  • I copied only the amount that I am authorized to transmit
  • There is no digital copy of the work available except with technological protections that prevent my using it for the class in the way the statute authorizes