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Copyright: In-class exception/TEACH Act

Limitations on copyright

There are several limitations on the exclusive rights of copyright holders, which means that under certain circumstances, no permission is needed when using a work.  

Three that apply in educational settings are:

In-class performances and displays - Title 17, §110(1) of the U.S. Copyright Code

The U.S. Copyright Code allows for some performances and displays of copyrighted materials without needing permission.  

§110(1) allows for in-class performances of certain works during face-to-face teaching.  

To claim this exemption and use a work without gaining the copyright holder's permisison, all provisions listed below must apply:

  • It must be a performance or display of a work (e.g. poetry, film, images);
  • of a lawfully made copy
  • by instructors or students
  • in the course of face-to-face teaching activities (not online)
  • at a nonprofit educational institution (such as SPU)
  • in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction (e.g. library classroom/seminar room).

If all of the above provisions apply, there is no infringement of copyright and no permission is needed to use the work.

Points to consider:

When recording class sessions,

    • any copyrighted performances or displays involved are not covered by §110(1)
    • inform the participants that they're being recorded and obtain student permission

When recording student musicals or plays,

    • this use is not covered by §110(1)
    • obtain public performance rights (PPR) and follow the license terms
    • obtain permission from students to record performance

Reserve readings are not intended for in-classroom use, so they are not be covered by §110(1) (but may be fair use).

When using student work in class,

    • the student is the copyright holder of the work.
    • obtain permission from the student to use their work in class.

Image credit: "FBI Classroom" by Bill Erickson is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

TEACH Act (Online Performances/Distance Education) - Title 17, §110(2) 

The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act) was implemented in 2002 and replaced the previous §110(2).  It applies to digital transmission of a work.  It allows for the transmission of copyrighted performances or displays as part of a course as long as certain provisions are met.

To claim this exception and use a work without gaining the copyright holder's permisison, ALL provisions listed below must apply:

  • Course provisions:
    • It must be a lawful copy and not an off-the-shelf online course
    • either a performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work (e.g. film) OR display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session
    • by the instructor 
    • as an integral part of a class session 
    • directly related to teaching content (not supplemental materials)
    • only available for students officially enrolled in the course.
  • The overarching institution must:
    • be an accredited nonprofit educational institution (such as SPU)
    • have copyright policies and provide information to faculty, students, and relevant staff members about copyright laws as well as notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection (sample notice).
    • not engage in measures that would make it easier to retain or disseminate work 
    • apply measures to the digital transmissions that reasonably prevent:
      • retention of the work in accessible form for longer than the class session
      • unauthorized further dissemination of the work (institution should use practices such as streaming, disabling right-click, thumbnails or low-resolution images)

Electronic reserves are not meant to be read or performed in class, so they do not fall under §110(2) (but may be fair use).

If any of the above provisions are not met, consider whether fair use would apply or request permission from the copyright holder.

Please see "The Original TEACH Act Toolkit" by UNC Charlotte for more detailed information including an overview of the TEACH Act requirements, compliance checklists, permissions guide, and FAQs.  

Image credit: "computer" by jaci XIII is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.