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Copyright for Teaching and Instruction

About The Classroom Use Exception

Classroom Use

This page will assist with questions regarding the following:

  • For face-to-face instruction:  using books, articles, videos, web pages, or other copyrighted works.

Copyright law places a high value on educational uses. The Classroom Use Exemption (17 U.S.C. §110(1)) only applies in very limited situations, but where it does apply, it gives some pretty clear rights.  In-class viewing of a copyright work, whether it's an article, book chapter, or video, is considered a public performance that is permitted under the Classroom Use Exemption

To qualify for this exemption:

  • You must be in a classroom ("or similar place devoted to instruction");
  • Be there in person, engaged in face-to-face teaching activities; 
  • Be at a nonprofit educational institution.

Sounds a little restrictive?  If (and only if!) you meet these conditions, the exemption gives both instructors and students broad rights to perform or display any works.

Green check markThe Classroom Exemption can be used for the following:

  • Instructors can play movies and music for their students, at any length, from legitimate copies;
  • Instructors can show students images or original artworks;
  • Students can perform arias, read poems, and act out scenes.
  • Students and instructors can do all these things without seeking permission, giving payment, or having to deal with the complications of fair use.

Red X MarkWhere does 110(1) not apply? 

  • Outside a nonprofit, in-person, classroom teaching environment;
  • Online teaching settings (via a learning management system, course-related activities that are online, or course websites);
  • Interactions that are not in-person, even synchronous, simultaneous distance learning interactions;
  • At for-profit educational institutions.

The Classroom Use Exemption also only authorizes in-person performance or display. If you are making or distributing copies (i.e., handing out readings in class), this exemption does not apply.

Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.

Source:  University of Minnesota Libraries (2020).  Exceptions and limitations: Classroom use, fair use, and more.   Permission to reuse by CC-BY-NC.


Classroom Use Exception Explained

Benson, S. (2017). Face to face teaching copyright exception. [YouTube Video]


The TEACH Act (17 USC §110(2)) is an exception that allows certain uses of copyrighted works for online use and performances.  The law has many provisions for how it can be applied.  For an educational institution to use TEACH Act exceptions, it must fulfill the following requirements: 

  • Have an institution-wide copyright policy;
  • Provide current materials that describe and promote copyright laws and their compliance;
  • Provide notice to students that materials used in class is subject copyright and other types of protection;
  • Use technology that prevents students from keeping copyrighted materials longer than a course, keeps additional sharing from occurring, and does not interfere with a copyright holder's use of technology that prevents further distribution.

If an institution does not have these policies in place, its instructors cannot individually use The TEACH Act.

Last updated on Jan 29, 2024 2:13 PM