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Copyright: Educational

Exemptions, Fair Use, and Linking

Section 110 of the Copyright Law provides exemptions for the performance and display of materials in face-to-face and online teaching. Fair Use is less specific, but may carry more risk. In the online learning environment, we recommend linking to materials or using E-Reserves.

Classroom Performance/Display

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act addresses performance and display of copyrighted materials in the face-to-face classroom:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 [of the copyright act], the following are not infringements:
(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;..."

Section 110(2) (The TEACH Act) deals with performance and display in the digital learning environment.

Can faculty show copyrighted videos to a class?

Yes, but there are some boundaries. The showing must be:

  • a "regular part of systematic instructional activities"
  • in a nonprofit educational institution
  • in a classroom or "similar place devoted to instruction"
  • the copy used must be lawfully made (Showing a rented video is allowed.)
  • Other notes: instructional activity must be taking place. The teaching activity should not be open to the public. The use of the video should be limited to the campus grounds.

When do I need public performance rights?
This is necessary when a video is shown and is not related to a teaching activity. Campus clubs and social events that wish to show videos must have permission or public performance rights. Any event that is open to the public is a public performance and needs public performance rights. Public performance rights are NOT required for showing in a class.

Do the Libraries' videos automatically come with public performance rights?
The MU Libraries purchase video to support classroom teaching and private study. We avoid the higher cost of public performance licenses when possible. Some vendors will only sell videos with public performance rights. The library record for the video has a note indicating "MU Performance rights: Public performance" and a subject heading, "Public performance media."

What about videos that can be purchased with streaming capability?

Some companies offer educational videos both on DVD and with streaming from the company's server. It is possible for some of these videos to be cataloged and proxied in the Libraries' MERLIN catalog to be viewed by MU faculty, students and staff anytime. Links to these databases can be added to your course management site. Ask your subject librarian to look into this if you are interested.

Can I make a compilation of video clips to show in class?
The 2009 exemptions now permit faculty of any department or discipline to make a compilation of video clips from motion pictures on DVD. Faculty are permitted to circumvent technological protection measures (TPMs) of "lawfully made and acquired" motion pictures on DVD solely to incorporate "short portions" into new works "for the purpose of criticism or comment" when it is necessary for educational use. This rule also covers certain students - "college and university film and media studies students." The rule extends to include the use of small portions in "documentary filmmaking and noncommercial videos." There is no definition of "short portions." See "Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works."


TEACH Act Resources

TEACH Act Flowchart (Duke University)

TEACH Act Toolkit (Louisiana State University)

TEACH Act Checklist (University of Texas)

Sec. 110: Exemption of Certain Performances and Displays

TEACH Act - Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (2002)

The TEACH Act (Section 110(2)) is a copyright exemption that covers teaching conducted through digital transmission; it addresses performance and display of copyrighted materials used in teaching. Even if your class has face-to-face sessions, anything you transmit through course delivery systems, such as Canvas, would fall under the TEACH Act, unless you choose to use Fair Use as an alternative. The TEACH Act is not a wild card exemption to do anything you want; it comes with limitations. 

Teachers have more privileges in face-to-face teaching situations for the use of copyrighted materials than teachers in online instruction. The TEACH Act attempts to bring the two environments closer together, but the playing fields are still not level.

Provisions of the Act
The Act allows teachers to show the full performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display the following types of materials:

  • a sound recording of a poem
  • a sound recording of a piece of literature
  • a recorded symphony
  • still images, photographs (these are considered "displays")
  • still images from subscription databases if allowed by license
  • text if it is something that would normally be "displayed" in a face to face class; not if it is something only to be read by students 

Teachers may only display "reasonable and limited portions" of dramatic works. Use only the portions that are necessary to make a point. (Teachers in  face to face classrooms may use the following works in their entirety).

  • dramatic works
  • audio/visual works
  • musicals
  • operas
  • commercial films
  • music videos

Teachers may not transmit or display instructional materials, without permission or licensing, which students are commonly expected to purchase such as:

  • textbooks
  • coursepacks
  • workbooks
  • digital educational work (made for the purpose of performance or display for use in mediated instruction)

 Obligations of the teacher under the TEACH Act:

  • The performance or display is made by or under the supervision of an instructor.
  • The performance or display is directly related and integral to the class content, not ancillary like Reserves
  • The work is part of systematic mediated instructional activities
  • The "transmission is made solely for and limited to students officially enrolled in the course."
  • Materials that are used for performance or display must be lawfully made and acquired.
  • Instructor must use reasonable controls to prevent copying and retention of the work, those that world "discourage most users." (streaming is suggested for video; thumbnails, watermarks and disabling right click copy function can be used to protect images.)
  • A digital copy may be made from an analog copy when no digital version is available or when the digital version is technologically protected.
  • Work must carry a warning notice to students. Examples:

(2nd example from NCSU)

 The University of Missouri System meets these institutional criteria for  the TEACH Act.

  1. Must be an accredited, non-profit, educational institution or governmental body
  2. The institution "institutes policies regarding copyright, provides informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the United States relating to copyright, and provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection."
  3. "The institution applies technological measures that reasonably prevent:
    1. retention of the work in accessible form by recipients of the transmission from the transmitting body or institution for longer than the class session; and
    2. unauthorized further dissemination of the work in accessible form by such recipients to others."
  4. The institution "does not engage in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent such retention or unauthorized further dissemination."

University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations  100.010
Must I use the TEACH Act when I teach online? 
No, you can choose to teach under the TEACH Act, which carries more requirements, or use Fair Use, which carries more risk.

Can I digitize an analog video (i.e. VHS) to show it to my distance education class?
Yes, in  an amount limited to what is necessary for the class, if:  

  • there is no digital version available to your institution at a reasonable price
  • the digitized copy is retained by the institution
  • if  it is used only for teaching under Section 110(2) critiera
  • if no one circumvents technological protection measures to make the digital copy.

Can I reuse my materials later in the semester for the same class?

Yes, you can reshow or redisplay the content to support your curriculum later in the semester, even if you used it earlier.

Can I reuse my teaching materials in subsequent semesters in my online class?
If materials are integral to the course content and are used in performance or display, the materials may be reused without permission. Copies of these items must be made from a legally acquired copy of the work. Supplementary or ancillary materials and readings require permission or royalty payments.

Can I show a YouTube video to my distance education class? 
The best way to handle a YouTube video is to link to it. Using YouTube's embedded code for linking is ok also; it's just code and YouTube makes it available for users to embed. However, it is advisable not to show a YouTube video that contains infringing material. 

Does the Teach Act apply just to credit courses at MU? 
No, it can be used with non-credit courses also.

I am a film studies/media studies teacher; can I override technological protection measures (TPMs) to create clips of videos to show my class?
As of 2010, all faculty of any department have been granted an exemption to circumvent TPMs of "lawfully made and acquired" motion pictures on DVD solely to incorporate "short portions" into new works "for the purpose of criticism or comment" when it is necessary for educational use. This rule also covers students of "college and university film and media studies." 

How Do I Use "reasonable controls" to protect images and performances shown in Canvas?
The best way to transmit film media in Canvas, in order to be in compliance with the TEACH Act,  is with the use of streaming.  Contact the Academic Technology Support team for help with integrating audio and video materials in Canvas.

Other suggested methods for protecting copyrighted images or photos include the use of low resolution images, thumbnails, digital watermarks, disabling the right click copy function, overlaying the image with a transparent GIF, using the image as a background in a table or using digital rights management. For details see "Tips and Techniques to Protect Images on the Internet."

When considering the use of media in online teaching, technological protection measures or digital rights management may come into play. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act carries strict prohibitions against overriding TPMs and DRM. See the DMCA tab for a brief explanation.


Nothing on this guide is to be construed as legal advice. These pages are intended to provide information and guidance in the application of copyright law and to expand on the University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations.

Thanks to Miller Nichols Library of UMKC for permission to reuse material from their Copyright guide.