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Copyright and Fair Use: In the Classroom and Online: Fair Use

A guide to inform faculty about copyright and fair use.

Copyright Exceptions

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is one of the exceptions in copyright that permits use of copyrighted material in an educational setting. As long as the use is considered fair there is no need to obtain permission from the copyright holder. There is a four factor analysis which should be applied to determine whether the use is fair.

Below is a document outlining these factors with a checklist to help with your decision.

Here's some additional information about Copyright and Teaching from the University of Minnesota's Copyright Services

Five minute video from the University of Illinois Libraries titled Face to Face Teaching Copyright Exceptions.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

"Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created a humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of Disney characters."  

Dr. Faden licensed this video under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License

The TEACH Act of 2002

The TEACH (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization) Act addresses concerns about online distance education. 

According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

The TEACH Act facilitates and enables the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education by accredited, non-profit educational institutions (and some government entities) that meet the Act's qualifying requirements. Its primary purpose is to balance the needs of distance learners and educators with the rights of copyright holders. TEACH applies to distance education that includes the participation of any enrolled student, on or off campus.


Under TEACH:


  • Instructors may use a wider range of works in distance learning environments.
  • Students may participate in distance learning sessions from virtually any location.
  • All participants enjoy greater latitude when it comes to storing, copying and digitizing materials.


TEACH Requirements

In exchange for unprecedented access to copyright-protected material for distance education, TEACH requires that the academic institution meet specific requirements for copyright compliance and education. For the full list of requirements, refer to the TEACH Act at

In order for the use of copyrighted materials in distance education to qualify for the TEACH exemptions, the following criteria must be met:

  • The institution must be an accredited, non-profit educational institution.
  • The use must be part of mediated instructional activities.
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.
  • The use must either be for 'live' or asynchronous class sessions.
  • The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials, materials "typically purchased or acquired by students," or works developed specifically for online uses.
  • Only "reasonable and limited portions," such as might be performed or displayed during a typical live classroom session, may be used.
  • The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright, and include a notice of copyright on the online materials.
  • The institution must implement some technological measures to ensure compliance with these policies, beyond merely assigning a password. Ensuring compliance through technological means may include user and location authentication through Internet Protocol (IP) checking, content timeouts, print-disabling, cut & paste disabling, etc.


What TEACH Does Not Allow

The new exemptions under TEACH specifically do not extend to:

  • Electronic reserves, coursepacks (electronic or paper) or interlibrary loan (ILL).
  • Commercial document delivery.
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from the author, publisher, aggregator or other entity.
  • Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except when the converted material is used solely for authorized transmissions and when a digital version of a work is unavailable or protected by technological measures.


It is also important to note that TEACH does not supersede fair use or existing digital license agreements.