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Copyright Resources Guide

Showing or playing video and audio in the classroom

Most in-class uses of audio and video are covered by the Classroom Use Exception and are just fine.  Instructors (and students) can, without limitation, display and perform things in face-to-face teaching in a classroom setting at a non-profit institution.   The only real restriction is that the video or audio you are performing or displaying must be a legally obtained copy.


  • Singing a song that all the students already know
  • Playing or singing from sheet music 
  • Watching a video (in whole or in part) from a DVD or VHS tape
  • Listening to music from a CD, tape, or record

The classroom use exception DOES NOT apply to online classrooms (either as part of a hybrid class or in distance education classes). 

Remember: the classroom exception applies only to displaying and performing, not to copying and distributing.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

Digitizing media for classroom use

As mentioned above, the Classroom Use Exception does not cover any kind of copying.  So any digitizing of video and audio for the purposes of instruction would need to be covered by some other exception. .

The courts have not provided us with much guidance regarding the copying of audio/video for purposes of instruction. It is very likely that fair use would cover many cases of copying, especially within a non-profit institution like SFCC.  It is also certainly the case that not all copying of video and audio for educational purposes would qualify as a fair use.

If you are teaching an online class, copying and subsequent posting of video and audio might be covered by the TEACH Act, if your use and the material meet all of the criteria.

image: "VHS-cassette" by Groink - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Posting video and audio online

Legally posting videos online will either be covered by the TEACH Act or by fair use.  

Streaming media, iTunes, and more: A word about licenses

Streaming music and video services and services that offer electronic media for purchase generally come with licenses and/or terms of use that might trump whatever copyright and fair use considerations would otherwise be at play.  It is unclear with free services like YouTube which state that they are for "personal use only" but that never require you to actively agree to their terms in order to use them whether those restrictions are enforceable.  Subscription services like Netflix or stores like iTunes do require you to actively agree to their terms.  At that point you have entered into a contract and contract law, rather than copyright law, is at play.

"ITunes 12 logo" by Apple Inc. - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -