Copyright Guidelines and Resources

In the Classroom

Teaching and learning involve the use of copyrighted works. Common and often fundamental teaching strategies used in the classroom include:

  • Showing films or videos, playing songs or other sound recordings, visiting Websites, reciting poems, performing music, watching live TV, and other uses of technology or “performances” that enhance learning and develop skills and experiences in students. These types of activities might raise copyright concerns relating to performance and display rights.
  • Sharing readings or other copying of copyrighted materials. Instructors often develop and share readings through Blackboard, coursepacks, handouts, or e-reserves in University Libraries. These activities can raise copyright issues relating to reproduction and distribution rights.

The good news for the classroom “performances” and “displays” is that copyright law provides a broad and straightforward exception that makes these activities possible in support of learning. The “face-to-face” teaching exception occurs in Section 110(1) in the federal copyright statute and allows “instructors or pupils” to perform or display any copyrighted work if that performance or display satisfies these conditions:

  1. the teaching activity takes place “in the course of face-to-face teaching” in a classroom at a “non-profit educational institution,” and
  2. instructors or students performing copyrighted motion pictures or other audiovisual works use only “lawfully made” copies, or at least the instructors or students had no indication that the copy was not lawfully made.

Section 110 also governs how instructors and students might “perform” or “display” copyrighted works in online learning including Blackboard at UofL. Those performances and displays must satisfy far more rigorous provisions in Section 110(2) (more commonly called the TEACH Act). One key condition of that exception is that instructors or students use only “reasonable and limited portions” of certain materials. Face-to-face performances have no limitations regarding length and performances of entire works are possible.

Sharing readings or other copies of copyrighted works with students is less straightforward and requires instructors to apply fair use and to analyze each specific reading. If fair use does not apply, the instructor must seek permission or find alternative sources of materials. These conditions apply regardless of how the instructors might ultimately share the materials with students: Blackboard, electronic reserves, coursepacks, or other possibilities. It is worth noting that each of these delivery methods makes “copies” of the works even if those copies are digital and shared electronically.

Fair use occurs in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law and calls upon instructors to make reasonable, good faith decisions in analyzing the four factors of fair use:

  1. Purpose
  2. Amount
  3. Nature
  4. Effect

Understanding fair use is fundamental to making most uses of copyrighted works possible at all in the educational setting. In the absence of fair use (or another exception such as Section 110 above), securing permission to use copyrighted works or finding alternative materials to them is common and often necessary in order to move forward with providing materials to students.

Dwayne K. Buttler, Evelyn J. Schneider Endowed Chair for Scholarly Communication at UofL, and Kenneth D. Crews, Director of the Copyright Advisory Office at Columbia University, developed the original Checklist for Fair Use over a decade ago to help users cultivate a broader understanding of fair use and how to begin applying it to teaching needs in reasonable, good faith ways.

The “Guidelines For Classroom Copying of Books and Periodicals” also address some copying that may occur in teaching and reflect efforts by the Author’s League of America and the Association of American Publishers to reach an agreement on the meaning of fair use relating to the interpretation of fair use under the Copyright Act of 1976. The Classroom Guidelines are not the law and clearly specify that users should read them as stating “the minimum standards of educational fair use.” Some users find them useful in bringing apparent certainty to fair use decision making provided that users satisfy all of the conditions within them. Other users find them limiting and not reflective of the full flexibility offered by fair use and its application to educational uses.

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