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Copyright at The College of St. Scholastica

Learn about copyright

Copyright & Teaching

The US Copyright Law includes many exceptions, exemptions, and limitations in the law (see Sections 107-122 of the US Copyright Law to learn more). They were added to the law to ensure progress continues. This is necessary because new works build upon, are influenced by, and make reference to works that came before them. If these exceptions, exclusions, and limitations did not exist, the creators and authors could monopolize their rights for all time and progress as we know it would cease to exist.  Therefore, the copyright law allows the public to use works in certain ways and under certain conditions without the need for asking permission because they are seen to serve the fundamental public interest and good.

There are numerous exceptions, exemptions, and limitations in the US Copyright Law. Unlike Fair Use, which is very flexible, these exceptions and limitations are very specific and rigid in nature. They often outline who qualifies for the exception, which specific works qualify, and outline in what context they can be used. This section will look at those that are most often used in teaching and education. 


Classroom Exemption


Section 110(1) of the US Copyright law is the Classroom Use Exemption in the copyright law. This exemption was added to the copyright law because of the high-value of educational uses. This exemption only allows for performing or displaying any copyrighted works in the face-to-face classroom. This includes videos, images, artwork, skits, public readings of poems, etc.  It does not include photocopies handed out to students in the class.



The exemption can only be used under certain conditions or situations, including:

  • The place where the class is being taught must be a non-profit educational institution or a similar place devoted to instruction.
  • The class must be a face-to-face classroom engaged in teaching activities.
  • The work must be a legal copy. The legal copy can be from the Library, the department, or an instructor's personal copy, but it must be a legal copy. If there is any question about whether or not the item is a legal copy, do NOT use it. 
  • An instructor or an enrolled student in the class must display or perform the work. 

If all conditions are met, instructors and students are free to perform or display any copyrighted works without asking permission, paying copyright fees, or relying on fair use. 

The Classroom Use Exemption is not flexible like Fair Use. It does not apply to conditions outside of the above conditions including for-profit institutions, online classrooms like Blackboard, or web-conferencing learning environments like Zoom, Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, or Skype. 

In the event your use of a work does not meet the above conditions, you may still be able to use another exemption, such as fair use, or you may need to ask for permission

Resources to Learn More:


Online Teaching

The US Copyright Law was updated in an attempt to better meet the needs of distance and online learning.  The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) was passed in 2002. This update to the copyright law, Section 110(2), provides protection for those teaching if certain conditions are met. 

Implementing the TEACH Act can be difficult because of its complexity and many detailed requirements for instructors, technologists, and institutions. Because of the complexity, CSS does not meet all of the conditions to allow for the institution or the faculty to fall under the protection of the TEACH Act. However, faculty can still use Fair Use when considering materials for their online courses.

Resource to Learn More:


Library Exemptions

Libraries and Archives Rights

Section 108 of the US Copyright Law provides limitations to the copyright holder’s exclusive rights written in the law for libraries and archives.  These rights allow for libraries and archives to offer many of the fundamental services and resources, such as:

  • Make copies of articles, book chapters, and other copies for users through interlibrary loan and document delivery.
  • Create preservation copies of items in their collections.
  • To make available scanners, photocopiers, etc. to the public so users can make their own copies as long as there is no financial gain and if there is a copyright notice affixed to all equipment.


First Sale Doctrine

Section 109 of the US Copyright Law is a limitation of the author’s or creator’s exclusive rights.  This limitation allows an owner of a legal copyrighted work to borrow, lend, sell, destroy, etc. the copy they purchased.  This exception allows libraries to lend books to its users, used book stores to sell used books, rummage sales to sell used copies of books and videos, and much more.

Additional Resources

Title: The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy 
Created by: Temple University's Media Education Lab
Published by: Renee Hobbs
License: Standard YouTube
Duration: 5:38 mins.

Short video discussing the use of media in the classroom and student projects. 


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Additional Tools for Fair Use

Be sure to visit the Fair Use page for information about Fair use as well as additional tools and resources to assist you. 


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Additional Tools for the Public Domain

Be sure to visit the Public Domain page to learn more about the Public Domain as well as additional tools and resources to assist you.