Displaying or Performing Works in Your Classes

Copyright law makes special provision for displaying images, playing motion pictures or sound recordings, or performing works in classes.

Face-to-face teaching

You may display or perform a work in your class without obtaining permission when your use is:

  • for instructional purposes;
  • in face-to-face teaching; and
  • at a nonprofit educational institution.

If you don’t meet all three of these criteria, consider whether what you have in mind is a fair use.

Distance education

Although a specific copyright exemption known as the TEACH Act* may apply, its rigorous requirements have prompted most instructors to rely primarily on fair use to display or perform works in distance education (e.g., online or over cable TV).

Consult your library or the university counsel on whether and how the TEACH Act is implemented locally. For a closer look at your rights to transmit works to a distance education class, see the North Carolina State University TEACH

Toolkit at www.lib.ncsu.edu/scc/legislative/teachkit/.

To evaluate the fair use option, weigh the four factors described at left. If you judge the use to be fair, you may use the work in your class.

In all cases, the copy of the work that is displayed or performed must have been lawfully made. That means, for example, you can display a video borrowed from your library’s collection.

Instructors Ask

Can I have a movie in class that I've rented from my home movie rental provider?

Yes, providing the movie is shown for educational purposes and such an educational use is not prohibited by the license agreement you signed with the rental provider.

I’ve used an article as a standard reading in the past and my students have paid to include it in their course packs. But recently the library has licensed a database that includes the article. Does that change things?

Yes. Instead of including the article in the course pack, now you can simply link to it in your syllabus and encourage students to use it online.

What about articles that aren’t licensed by the library — how do I share them with my students?

Here are several options:

  • If the article is available online via open access, share a link to it.
  • If a Creative Commons notice appears on the article, you may share the work with your students.
  • If the article is in the public domain, you’re free to share it.
  • Consider whether use of the work is a fair use.
  • Ask the library about putting the article on reserve.
  • Ask the library to license an online subscription if there is sufficient campus demand.
  • Ask the copy center to license the work for sale of print copies.
  • License the work yourself using your institution’s courseware.

Get answers to more of your copyright questions at the ARL “Know Your Copy Rights” FAQ: www.knowyourcopyrights.org/faq/.