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Faculty Teaching FAQs: Classroom

If you have reviewed the Copyright Basics Tutorial, the Using Copyrighted Works Tutorial, and the Copyright Basics FAQ, you may not have many questions left for this section.

But here are a few anyway:  Please feel free to send in your own. [Note: By "classroom", I mean the traditional face-to-face classroom setting]

Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act provides as follows:

Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

1.  What can I show (display or perform) in class?  What is the difference between "displaying" and "performing"?

2.  What if I need to make a copy of the image, etc., first before I can display it?  For example, it is an image in a book, my class is huge, and I need to scan it into my computer so I can project it.  That is, standing in a large auditorium holding up a book is pretty useless.

3.  The movie that I usually show in my classroom is wearing out.  I cannot find another copy of it anywhere and I have even tried to find whoever put out the movie without success.  Can I digitize the movie for preservation purposes?

4.  I own several films and would like to show clips from each of them in my class.  May I?  If so, I would like to copy the clips onto a single dvd for ease of presentation.  May I?

5.  Can I show a movie in class that I rented from Blockbuster?

6.  What kinds of works can I incorporate into a powerpoint presentation?  Charts, photos, graphics, cartoons, sounds?

7.  Can I show student works?

8.  Can I put student work on print reserves?

9.  Can I pass out slide handouts from my powerpoint to the class for them to take notes on?


1.  What can I show (display or perform) in class?  What is the difference between "displaying" and "performing"?

As long as the performance or display is part of your teaching activities for that class (i.e., not just for entertainment value), there are basically no limits to what (and how much) you can display or perform.  The only limit is that you cannot perform an audio-visual work (movie) that you knew was not lawfully made.  The definitions of "perform" and "display" can be read here on this site but, generally speaking, "perform" refers to audio-visual works, like movies, and display refers to static works like photos, images, graphs, etc.

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2.  What if I need to make a copy of the image, etc., first before I can display it?  For example, it is an image in a book, my class is huge, and I need to scan it into my computer so I can project it.  That is, standing in a large auditorium holding up a book is pretty useless.

Section 110(1) only refers to performances and displays, not reproductions.  There are several options:

•  If the work is already on the internet and your classroom has internet capabilities, you can show the work by accessing it on the web.

•  If not, your best option is to consider whether this single reproduction is a viable fair use. If, for some reason, you do not think your reproduction is a fair use, you need to ask for permission.

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3.  The movie that I usually show in my classroom is wearing out.  I cannot find another copy of it anywhere and I have even tried to find whoever put out the movie without success.  Can I digitize the movie for preservation purposes?

There are primarily two options (other than throwing the movie away)

•  Do a fair use analysis (you have a reasonable shot here since there is not market to affect)

•  Donate your copy to the library.  There are special provisions that would allow the library to do what you would like to do.

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4. I own several films and would like to show clips from each of them in my class.  May I?  If so, I would like to copy the clips onto a single dvd for ease of presentation.  May I?

Since you can show an entire movie in class, you can clearly show clips from the movie.  However, putting the clips on a single dvd involves copying which would again trigger a fair use analysis. (you'll notice that there is a lot of reference to the doctrine of fair use in the faqs in general.  Fair use is a foundational balance in the copyright system without which it would be impossible to realize the Constitutional purpose of promoting science and the useful arts.) There is also a second issue involved if you must circumvent a technological protection measure because this is disallowed under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  This is likely one of those situations where the technology available doesn't comport with the law.  Most computers contain the lawful, licensed software to play the movie (so there's no hacking involved) and they can also make copies.  Given such a conundrum, I think it's reasonable to fall back on the Constitutional purpose of copyright - promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. 

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5. Can I show a movie in class that I rented from Blockbuster?

Yes, unless you signed an agreement that says you won't show it anywhere but your home.  The Copyright Act only requires that the work be "lawfully made."

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6. What kinds of works can I incorporate into a powerpoint presentation?  Charts, photos, graphics, cartoons, sounds?

If these works do not originate with you, you will have to rely on your fair use analysis in order to use them.  Keep in mind that your use of these works may differ significantly from their original purpose, enhancing the likelihood that your use is a transformative use.

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7. Can I show student works?

Yes, but you should remove their names unless you have their permission.

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8. Can I put student work on print reserves?

Yes, with same caveat.

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9. Can I pass out slide handouts from my powerpoint to the class for them to take notes on?

Again, this is a situation that is likely to fall under fair use.  Recommend that you do the fair use analysis but chances are good that it is a fair use.

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