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Copyright in the Classroom (and Beyond)

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

The Classroom Exception

Section 110 (1) of Title 17 of the US Code, also known as the Classroom Exception, allows for use of copyrighted materials in a classroom setting without permission. 

(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; 

-17 U.S. Code § 110 

This means that, teachers and students are able to publicly perform or display copyrighted works within a class as long as:

  • They are in a physical, face-to-face classroom 
  • They part of a non-profit educational institution
  • The copy of the work being used was legally obtained 

It is important to note, this does NOT apply to virtual/Zoom classrooms. For distance learning, please see the next section on the TEACH Act.


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.

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Please contact your librarian with any questions.

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