This guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions, please contact EMU's Legal Affairs Office.


Portions of this page are derived from University of Michigan Library's guide, Copyright Basics - Teaching, licensed under Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0.

Fair Use

Many uses of copyrighted materials in the classroom can be justified using copyright law's fair use exemption.

Please see the "Fair Use" page on this guide for more information.

Other classroom exemptions are detailed below.

In-Person Teaching

U.S. copyright law permits certain uses of copyrighted works in face-to-face teaching. As an instructor or student, you are allowed to perform or display a copyrighted work without permission as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The performance or display takes place in “a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction”
  • during face-to-face teaching
  • at a nonprofit educational institution.

If the work is a motion picture or other audiovisual work, you must use a copy of the work that was lawfully made.

This is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 110(1).

Distance Education

U.S. copyright law gives instructors the right to use copyright-protected works for distance learning without permission under certain circumstances.

If you

  • are, or are acting under direction or actual supervision of, an instructor in a class session offered by an accredited nonprofit educational institution or governmental body;
  • are using the material as an integral part of a class session;
  • are using the material that is directly related to and of material assistance to your teaching content; and
  • are using a copy of the work that was prepared lawfully,

and the copyrighted work

  • was not “produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks;” and
  • will be transmitted solely to students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made,

and your use is:

  • performing a nondramatic literary  or musical work (e.g., reading a short story aloud or singing a song);
  • performing a reasonable and limited amount of any other work (e.g., playing an excerpt from a movie); or
  • displaying any work in an amount comparable to what would be used in a live classroom,

and your institution

  • institutes a copyright policy;
  • provides information about copyright to faculty, students, and relevant staff members;
  • provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection; and
  • if the transmission is digital, applies the required technological measures,

then U.S. copyright law permits your use.

You can read this provision, often referred to as TEACH Act,  at 17 U.S.C. § 110.