Skip to Main Content
Florida Tech Evans Library Logo


Find resources and answers to questions about copyright issues.

An Introduction to DMCA and Fair Use for Educators

"Why don't the laws that apply in the physical classroom apply in the online classroom?".

• As distance education began to become commonplace there was an effort to update the Classroom Use Exception that educators have always relied upon to give broad latitude to display and perform copyrighted materials in the classroom to apply to the distance education classroom. The TEACH Act was enacted in response to concerns about piracy of digital copies of works.  While the act does provide the clarity to know that our use is legal, it also imposes much greater restrictions on the online instructor than are felt by the face-to-face instructor. 
•Please note, the only part of the law that really differs for the distance classroom vs the face-to-face classroom is the Classroom Use Exception.  Online instructors still benefit from fair use and, in many cases, can make fair uses of materials that would not meet the extensive requirements of the TEACH Act.

Using The TEACH Act

TEACH has a big long laundry list of criteria that must be true in order to make use of its protections.  Many you can assume to automatically be true for classes you are teaching at Florida Tech.  These include:

  • You are teaching at an accredited, nonprofit educational institutional or governmental body.
  • You have an institutional policy that addresses the use of copyrighted materials and promotes compliance with U.S. copyright law.
  • You as the instructor are individually responsible for copyright compliance.
  • Your institution provides educational resources that accurately describe copyright rights and responsibilities.
  • Your institution has implemented reasonable measures to prevent unauthorized further dissemination by the recipients.
  • There is a notice accompanying the work notifying students that the work may be protected by copyright.

The following are the criteria that you'll need to actively evaluate if you want to make use of TEACH:

  • If the work is a non-dramatic literary or musical work you can post entire works
  • If the work is a dramatic literary or musical work, you can only post "limited and reasonable" segments
  • The work is an integral part of the class session.
  • The work is part of systematic mediated instructional activities. This means you will facilitate the students' use of the work.
  • The work is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content.
  • You will display an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of an in-person classroom setting.
  • You will only make the work available to students during the relevant instructional module. It should not be available for the entire length of the course.
  • The work will only be available to students who are enrolled in the course.
  • The work was lawfully made and acquired.
  • The work was not created as a digital educational work. If it was, the TEACH Act does not apply.
  • The work is not a textbook, course pack, or other commercial educational work. If this is a title students would otherwise be required to purchase for your class, it will not be covered by the TEACH Act.
  • There is no reasonably priced streaming version of the work available to the institution.

If your use does not meet all of the above criteria, don't despair!  Your use might still be a fair use.  Fair use doesn't always offer us the same peace of mind but it makes up for it by being a flexible and dynamic doctrine designed to support a wide variety of beneficial uses of copyrighted material.


Evans Library is grateful to Rachel Bridgewater at Portland Community College, who created the original resource that this guide is adapted from.

"Copyright Resources" by Rachel BridgewaterPortland Community College is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0