Teaching and Copyright

The Law

U.S. Copyright Law Section 110 (1, 2): Exemption of Certain Performances and Displays

Face-to-Face Classroom Setting: Section 110 (1)

Instructors and students may perform or display a copyrighted work, without seeking permission of the copyright owner, in the course of face-to-face teaching activities at a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. There are no restrictions on the type or length of work for this purpose.

In the Course of a Transmission: Section 110 (2) (TEACH Act)

Section 110 (2) was revised by enactment of The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH) which was signed into law on November 2, 2002. TEACH allows the digital transmission of performances and displays of copyrighted works, without having to obtain prior permission from the copyright owner, as part of synchronous or asynchronous distance education applications if the following requirements are met:


  1. Accredited, nonprofit educational institution
  2. Controlled by or under the actual supervision of the instructor


  1. Performances of nondramatic literary works or musical works
  2. Performances of reasonable portions of any other work, or
  3. Display of any other work in an amount comparable to that typically displayed in a live classroom setting


  1. As an integral part of a class session, and
  2. As part of systematic mediated instructional activities, and
  3. Directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content


Transmission made solely for and reception limited to (as technologically feasible) students enrolled in the course, and technological measures that reasonably prevent:

  1. Retention in accessible form for a class session and
  2. Unauthorized further dissemination in accessible form, and
  3. No interference with copyright holder’s technological measures that prevent such retention and dissemination


  1. Digital educational works (Works produced or marketed primarily for performance/display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks) or
  2. Unlawful copies (copies you know or reasonably should know were not lawfully made or acquired)

Converting Analog to Digital

Converting analog to digital is permissible when

  1. No digital version available to the institution, or
  2. The available digital version is technologically protected to prevent TEACH uses

Institutional Requirements

  1. Disseminate copyright policies
  2. Provide accurate information about copyright
  3. Promote copyright compliance
  4. Provide notice to students that course materials may be protected by copyright

Instructor Requirements

Instructors who want to incorporate works into digital transmissions for instructional purposes applying TEACH should:

  1. Avoid use of commercial works that are sold or licensed for purposes of delivery of digital content for distance education purposes.
  2. Avoid use of pirated works, or works where you otherwise have reason to know the copy was not lawfully made.
  3. Generally, limit use of works to an amount and duration comparable to what would be displayed or performed in a physical classroom setting. In other words, TEACH does not authorize the digital transmission of textbooks or coursepacks to students.
  4. Supervise the digital performance or display, make it an integral part of a class session, and make it part of a systematic mediated instructional activity. In other words, the faculty should interactively use the copyrighted work as part of a class assignment in the distance education course. It should not be an entertainment add-on or passive background/optional reading.
  5. Use tools provided by the university to limit access to the works to students enrolled in the course, to prevent downstream copying by those students, and to prevent the students from retaining the works for longer than a “class session.”
  6. Notify the students that the works may be subject to copyright protection and that they may not violate the legal rights of the copyright holder.

Tools for Using the TEACH Act

Checklist for Implementing the TEACH Act and Distance Education (PDF)
Exceptions for Instructors in U.S. Copyright Law, This tool covers Section 110(1), the “face to face teaching” exception and Section 110(2), the TEACH Act (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization  Act), Michael Brewer, ALA OIT Policy
Summary of the TEACH Act (PDF) by Kenneth Crews, 2010
TEACH Act Summary by Laura Gasaway, 2002

Other TEACH Resources

Distance Education and the TEACH Act, American Library Association
Balancing Copyright Concerns: The TEACH Act of 2001, Laura N. Gasaway (PDF)