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Using Copyrighted Materials in Instruction: Teaching Exceptions

Covers copyright in general, exceptions, permissions, licensing, ereserves, course management systems

17 U.S.C. §110

17 U.S.C.  §110 includes exceptions to the exclusive rights of copyright holder for face-to-face teaching and for distance education. 

Face-to-Face Teaching Exception 17 U.S.C. §110(1)

  • "Performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities. . . in a classroom . . ."
  • Must use lawfully made copy.
    • You may use a library copy or a personal copy, but not a copy made by circumventing technological protection measures (DRM).
  • Must be for teaching purposes only.
  • Allows for classroom use of "For Home Use" labeled media.
  • Does not cover copying (fair use).
  • Does not cover materials in a course management system such as Brightspace/D2L.


Distance Learning Exception TEACH Act 17 U.S.C. §110(2)

  • Transmission of non-dramatic literary or musical work or reasonable portions of other works
    • but not works marketed for online use
  • By the instructor as an integral part of mediated instructional activities
  • Directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content
  • Reception limited to students officially enrolled - password access
  • Institute has policies regarding copyright and provides informational materials to faculty, staff, and students
  • Notice to students that materials used may be subject to copyright protection
  • Technological protection measures reasonable prevent retention of the work for longer than the class session and reasonably prevent unauthorized further dissemination.
    • iTunesU and podcasts Fail This Test
  • Copy was not made by circumventing technological protection measures


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) 17 U.S.C. §1201 forbids circumvention of a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under copyright. 

Generally, it is a violation to go around any type of digital access controls if such access would be unauthorized.

There are limited exceptions for a few uses. Even iff you think you can make use of an exception to circumvent a technological protection measure, please first consult Legal Affairs.