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Copyright for Faculty: Classroom Performance or Display

Performance or Display

Educators and students may perform or display works in the course of face-to-face teaching activities at a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction. There is no limitation on the types or amounts of a work that can be performed or displayed, except that an audiovisual work that is not lawfully made cannot be shown. You may display a picture, drawing, or photograph; show an entire movie; act out or perform a play or opera; perform musical compositions; or play sound recordings.

 A performance is most likely to fit within the exception if:

  • The performance is in a classroom or similar location for instruction. 
  • The performance is part of a “teaching activity.” The teaching activity does not have to be part of a regular course. Examples include discussion forums or educational programs related to the film led by a student or instructor.

Note that Section 110(1) authorizes only the performance or display, not any accompanying reproduction of the work that might be necessary in order to perform or display it. Use guidelines for fair use and public domain to determine whether permission for making photocopies or other reproductions is necessary.

Transmissions of Performances and Displays

Section 110(2) was amended by the TEACH Act in 2002 to account for digital distance education as well as face-to-face teaching which has an online, web enhanced, transmitted or broadcast component. The TEACH Act places considerable responsibilities on educational institutions that wish to take advantage of the exemption it offers. The greater freedoms granted to instructors are balanced with increased responsibility for the management of distance education. It does not, however, modify the previous standards for the fair use of copyrighted materials.

Film Clips

Am I permitted to circumvent technology that controls access to copyrighted works in order to make compilations of clips from films for my class?
Yes. A list of exceptions to the DMCA prohibition on circumvention of the Content Scrambling System issued by the Library of Congress on July 27, 2010 include motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired when circumvention is solely in order to incorporate short portions of motion pictures into new works for educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students.