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Copyright Resources for Faculty: Using Copyrighted Content in Class

Copyrighted Content in your Courses

With the wealth of information in the world, using copyrighted works in your courses is going to be a common occurrence.  Common examples of using copyrighted works include sharing physical photocopies of an item with your students, uploading a PDF document into your Canvas course, or watching a video in your class. If you decide to use a copyrighted work in class, you can obtain permission from the creator, but this may be difficult if the resource if produced through a large organization, or the copyright holder is deceased. Situations that allow exceptions for use of copyrighted material are outlined below. 

Face-to-Face Teaching

Commonly referred to as the Classroom Exemption, Section 110 of the U.S. Copyright Act allows for the performance, use, or display of copyrighted works during face-to-face teaching  activities.  To qualify for this exemption, you must:

  • Be in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction
  • Be in-person
  • Be at a non-profit educational institution
  • Be using a legally obtained copy of the work

If you meet these criteria, then you and your students have the right to perform or display any copyrighted work without permission.  For example, you can play entire movies, perform music, or display works of art. This exception allows for the performance or display of a work though, not making copies.  So handing out copies of a script would not be covered by the Classroom Exemption.

NOTE: The Classroom Exemption does NOT apply in the online environment, even if the nature of the use is completely educational  This includes simultaneous learning where some students are in-person and others are distance learning.  Continue to the next section, the TEACH Act, for more information on using copyrighted works in the online environment.