US Copyright Law provides several exemptions for the academic use of copyrighted materials. If the requirements for an exemption are met, it is not necessary to seek permission before using the copyrighted material for the purpose outlined in the exemption.
Section 110(1) in Title 17 of the United States Code provides the following exemption:
§ 110. Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays
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;
This exemption means that faculty may, for the purpose of instruction, do the following:
- Show a film
- Perform or listen to a piece of music
- Perform, or show, a play
- Show slides or other images
The only requirement is that the performance or display of the work must be part of the instructional activities (e.g. not for entertainment), and the faculty member must use a legally obtained copy of the work.