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This guide provides an introduction to U.S. copyright law and associated resources related to education and scholarship.

Performance/Display of a Work in a Course

decorative imageCopyright law allows for 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, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction..." (§110(1), emphasis added). This must be done with a lawfully acquired copy of the work. If the conditions in this section are met, there is no infringement of copyright and no permission is needed to use the work.

Keep in mind that this section does not apply to online courses or when making a recording of a class that also captures the work.


What is the TEACH Act?

decorative imageThe TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act) of 2002 updated copyright law to better address the performance or display of copyrighted work in digital distance education (or as the law puts it, when it is being transmitted) (§§110(2) and 112(f)).

But there is still a considerable gap between what the statute authorizes for face-to-face teaching and for distance education. An educator would more than likely have to pare down materials used in a face-to-face class under §110(1) in order to show them online to distant students under §110(2).

Course management systems, such as Canvas, make implementing the TEACH Act more straightforward. However, if you are not able to meet all of the criteria in §110, consider whether fair use would apply, obtain a licensed copy, or request permission from the copyright holder.

TEACH Act Checklist

** Click Here to Download a Copy of This Checklist **

To digitally transmit the display or performance of a copyrighted work for instructional purposes through the TEACH Act (§110(2) of copyright law), you must meet all of the following conditions. Conditions that are met at the institutional level by the University of Northern Colorado or that may be facilitated by use of a learning management system (LMS), such as Canvas, are noted.

  1.  Institution is a nonprofit accredited educational institution or a government agency (UNC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission)
  2.  Institution has a policy on the use of copyrighted materials (UNC Board Policy Manual: 1-1-506 Copyright Law Compliance.; Student Consumer Information: Copyright Infringement)
  3.  It provides accurate information to faculty, students, and staff about copyright (copyright guidance at
  4.  Its systems will not interfere with technological controls within the materials I want to use (UNC University Regulations: 3-9-213 Plan to Combat Unauthorized Distribution of Copyrighted Material)
  5.  The materials I want to use are specifically for students in my class
  6.  Only those students will have access to the materials (e.g., posted in LMS rather than openly online)
  7.  The materials will be provided at my direction during the relevant lesson
  8.  The materials are directly related and of material assistance to my teaching content
  9.  My class is part of the regular offerings of my institution
  10.  I will include a notice that the materials are protected by copyright. Example: The materials on this course web site are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. (LSU Libraries "TEACH Copyright Notice")
  11.  I will use technology that reasonably limits the students' ability to retain or further distribute the materials (e.g., do not circumvent or tamper with anti-piracy controls)
  12.  I will make the materials available to the students only for a period of time that is relevant to the context of the class session (e.g., access to LMS course materials ends when course ends)
  13.  I will store the materials on a secure server and transmit them only as permitted by this law (e.g., the university LMS is a secure system supported by IM&T)
  14.  I will not make copies other than the one I need to make the transmission
  15. The materials are of the proper type and amount the law authorizes (select that which applies):
    1.  Entire performances of nondramatic literary and musical works,
    2.  Reasonable and limited parts of a dramatic literary, musical, or audiovisual work, or
    3.  Displays of other works, such as images, in amounts similar to typical displays in face-to-face teaching
  16.  The materials are not among those the law specifically excludes from its coverage:
    1. Materials specifically marketed for classroom use for digital distance education
    2. Copies that are illegal
    3. Textbooks, course packs, electronic reserves and similar materials typically purchased individually by the students for independent review outside the classroom or class session
  17. If I am using an analog original, I checked the following before digitizing it to be sure:
    1.  I copied only the amount that I am authorized to transmit, and
    2.  There is no digital copy of the work available except one with technological protections that prevent my using it for the class in the way the statute authorizes


This work was adapted from the University of Texas Libraries Copyright Crash Course

Image Credits:

Photos from the UNC Photo Gallery