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The home page of Indiana University Libraries' guide to copyright law.

For Instructors

Teacher in classroom writing on chalkboard with students observing.Congress recognizes the needs of educators to use copyrighted materials to teach effectively. To protect educators and educational uses in general, the Copyright Act includes several exceptions to protect educational uses of copyrighted materials. None of the following replace the fair use provision of the Copyright Act, so if your intended use does not fit within one of these categories, it may still be protected as a fair use.

Classroom Use

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act explicitly permits the "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution." A legally-obtained copy of a particular work may be displayed or performed in a classroom, or similar place devoted to instruction. This broad limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright owners applies to any copyrighted work which may be displayed or performed, so long as the work is relevant to class instruction.

Using Licensed Materials for Class Readings

University licensed works

The IU Libraries pay for licenses to give you access to hundreds of different research databases, providing students and faculty access to thousands of copyrighted works. As the vast majority of the library licenses allow for the use of materials for e-reserves, you may link to the library's licensed copy without any other copyright considerations.  There are some exceptions though (most notably the Harvard Business Review) where linking to an article is not allowed.


Course readings may be made available though Canvas when:

  1.  The library has paid the licensing fee for your use as part of our subscription fee, or
  2.  The reading qualifies as a fair use of the material, or
  3.  Permission has been obtained, either with or without a fee   

Additional information can be found in the IU Libraries' guide on "Linking to Library Resources" in Canvas

Distance Education

A dozen Indonesian students gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (at left in the split-screen video monitor) had the opportunity to query their American high school counterparts on their interests, experiences and culture during the interactive video link-up recently at NASA Dryden's Aerospace Exploration Gallery in Palmdale, California, May 2010.Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act, also known as the TEACH Act, extends part of the face-to-face instructional display and performance exemption to distance education transmissions. The TEACH Act does have significant limitations on what and how much of a work may be shown, whereas the classroom teaching exception does not. To qualify under the TEACH act, an instructor must use a lawful copy and meet the following conditions:

  1. the copy must be "made by, at the direction of, or under the supervision of the instructor";
  2. the use must be "directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content"; and
  3. the transmission must be limited to students enrolled in the class.

If these conditions are met, the material copied is limited to:

  1. "performance of nondramatic literary or musical work," such as reading a short story, or listening to a piece of music;
  2. "reasonable and limited portions of any other work," such as a video, or a musical play; and
  3. "display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session," such as a picture or illustration.

Some materials are excluded from the TEACH Act, including works primarily "produced or marketed primarily" for distance education; works the instructor "knows or has reason to believe" were not lawfully reproduced; works protected by "technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent...retention or unauthorized further dissemination"; and textbooks, coursepacks and other material typically purchased by students. If a particular use does not qualify as an exception under the TEACH Act, it may still be protected by fair use.

The TEACH Act also requires that technological measures must be taken to prevent retention of the work for longer than the class session and unauthorized further dissemination of the work.  These requirements, especially the second, are difficult to meet, so many universities do not rely on this section of the law but instead rely on fair use.

Copies for Educational Use

The Copyright Office has issued a brochure (pdf) with information on the provisions in the Copyright Act regarding educators. There is also more information on the IU Libraries' Class Reserves page.

Further Reading