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Copyright in the Classroom (and Beyond)

A quick intro guide to copyright law in regard to educational uses


This is not legal advice. RIT Libraries can provide information and research assistance on the topics of copyright and fair use. Questions about legal advice and legal recommendations should be directed to RIT’s Office of Legal Affairs. For RIT's definitive institutional policy regarding copyright, visit the RIT University Copyright Policy.

The Basics of Copyright

Copyright is a legal set of rights that is designed to protect the intellectual property of content creators (e.g. authors, artists, musicians, programmers) for works that exist in a fixed, tangible medium of expression. In other words, copyright protects the things that people create. Nowadays, a work does not need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to be protected by copyright – once an original work exists in a fixed, tangible state the creator is entitled to copyright protection regardless of whether or not the work is registered with the copyright office or a copyright notice is posted on the work.

Copyright provides a set of exclusive rights to: 

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivatives (adaptations, translations, etc.)
  • Distribute by sale or transfer of ownership
  • Perform the work publicly
  • Display the work publicly
  • Perform via digital audio transmission (sound recordings)

More information on copyright law and using copyrighted materials can be found here:

Using copyrighted works in the course of instructional and scholarly activities may infringe on some of these rights, however, copyright law does make room for certain types of educational uses, as this guide will explore. 

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Please contact your librarian with any questions.

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