Copyright & Teaching

The Copyright Act includes numerous exceptions that permit you to use a work without seeking permission. Four exceptions are often useful for instructors.

Classroom Exception

The classroom exception permits you to use copyrighted works without permission as part of classroom instruction at UCR. Specifically, it permits you or your students to perform or display a work in the classroom or a similar space devoted to instruction such as a lab, or library room - as long as the work is related to your instruction.


The TEACH Act provides a similar exception for instruction in the online environment. Like the Classroom Exception, the TEACH Act permits you to use materials without permission when you are in the equivalent of a classroom - generally on a web site that is limited to those enrolled in your class with password protection. You can also only perform or display works in a comparable amount to what you would make available in the classroom. For dramatic audiovisual works like movies you must use "limited portions" of the work, unless fair use can be claimed.

Fair Use

Fair use is an exception that permits use when the benefit to the public outweighs the harm done to the rights holder. Fair use is about striking a balance that permits use for the public good that does not do too much harm to the creator of the original work.

The decision whether a use is "fair" or not is based on four factors:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the work your are using
  • the amount and substantiality you are using
  • the effect of your use on the market for the original

Use fair use decision tools such as Columbia University's Fair Use Checklist or the American Library Association's Fair Use Evaluator.

The Library Exception

The Library Exception is a set of rules regarding library copying and sharing. It gives qualified libraries flexibility in their decisions about sharing works owned by the library as well as archiving and preserving works.

The Library Exception is fairly complex, particularly for non-librarians. The Section 108 Spinner can help you with decisions about archiving and library use.

Content adapted with permission from the Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center at NCSU Libraries.