Copyright & Fair Use

Copyright in the Classroom - Faculty

Classroom Use Exemption

Copyright law protects educational use of copyrighted materials in specific circumstances. But within those circumstances, there is broad permission for use of materials. The Classroom Use Exemption (17 U.S. Code § 110) allows instructors and students to perform or display copyrighted works if these criteria are met:

  1. instruction or presentation must be face-to-face
  2. must occur at a nonprofit educational institution
  3. instruction must occur in "a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction"

This exemption does not apply to online or hybrid instruction or to making copies of materials and distributing them, either in person or through an online course management system like Blackboard. It only applies to works displayed or performed in person.


The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, 2002, Section 110(2)) allows instructors to display copyrighted works in online courses. It does not apply to hybrid courses. For an online course use to use the TEACH Act, specific requirements must be met by course instructors and the academic institution. These requirements are fairly stringent, and the allowed uses of copyrighted materials are more restrictive than for in-person instruction.

For more information on the requirements of the TEACH Act, see LUS's TEACH Act Toolkit.

Using Copyrighted Materials

If your use does not fit into the Classroom Use Exemption or the TEACH Act and you cannot secure permission to use the material, you still have other good options for using copyrighted works for instruction. Some are:

  1. Fair Use
    • Your use may be allowed under fair use. See the Fair Use page for information and tools to determine fair use. Claiming fair use is much improved when your course, and all copyrighted materials, are in a closed, passworded system like Blackboard.
  2. Public Domain
    • Use a work in the pubic domain or request permission. Authors and creators sometimes put their work into the public domain with a Creative Commons license. You can search for items by CC license to find items in the public domain or that are free to use with attribution. See also the public domain page for more information.
  3. Linking Library Sources in Blackboard