Traditional Classrooms

Traditional Classrooms

What can I use without permission of the copyright holder?

Copyright law favors uses that are nonprofit and educational because such uses advance copyright’s primary purpose – to promote progress.

When the last major revision of the Copyright Act occurred (1976), most teaching happened in a traditional physical space (a “real” classroom) with the instructor and the students present in the same room.  Students watched movies, live experiments, listened to lectures, viewed materials and listened to music. They left the classroom with new ideas, facts, memories, and their notes.

An ideal environment for learning, creating, and building on what came before.  As long as lawfully made copies (i.e., not pirated) are used, permission is not required. Why so easy? Because there is no lost market. No copies are being made, except for perhaps a single overhead slide or projector copy. Students have no copies of the works seen or heard and the law recognizes that such public performances and displays, under these specific circumstances, are so beneficial as to outweigh any harm to a market for the works used.



A teacher or student
In a physical classroom
For an educational purpose
Nonprofit educational.


DO NOT need copyright permission
To perform (movie, AV, music, plays)
To display (show photo, image, text, etc.)
ANY work
ALL of the work (No Pirated Copies)

What are the copyright issues involved in using copyrighted materials in the traditional classroom teaching? To begin with, "classroom teaching" in this context is intended to be restricted to traditional, face-to-face teaching at a nonprofit educational institution in a classroom or other similar place devoted to instruction. Typical uses of copyrighted materials in the classroom would likely include showing the work (display) playing a movie or music (performance), or reproducing the work (for example, a single copy for display or multiple copies to give to students in the class.) Educational uses are typically favored by the Copyright Act since such uses directly support copyright's Constitutionally stated purpose of promoting the progress of science and the useful arts. As a result, Congress has included a number of exceptions to the copyright holder's exclusive rights that allow educational uses without the need for prior permission.