Copyright Fair Use

Copyright Basics for Teachers

What is Fair Use?

It is a US law that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

Keep in mind that education purposes do not guarantee permission to copy or distribute work. Many cases may be permissible, but it is important to evaluate each use individually. There are several resources that you can consider


Four Factors to Consider

Here are the four factors of fair use that should be followed when including items like Youtube videos in screen recordings, digital worksheets, or other copyrighted materials .

1. Purpose: Transformative, is it different than how it was used before? For example, teachers using Youtube videos in their screencast should add a level of critique of the video within their screencast recording. They can show short portions like quoting a passage in a research paper.

2. Nature: What is the nature of the created work? Is it a creative work or is it facts? If the video or information is factual in nature it is more likely to be okay to be used.

3. Amount: What is the amount of material being used? Borrowing small bits of material from an original work is more likely to be considered fair use than borrowing large portions.

4. Impact on Market: Would it hurt the ability of the original creator to sell and market their work? Teachers can not reuse materials from others and sell them for profit.

*K-12 copyright Handbook


Copyright Cheet sheet

TEACH Act 2020-Digital Learning

Because of the increased elements of online learning, Congress pushed through the TEACH Act which allows exemptions for in person work to be shared online. It covers performance and display of that work through online lessons, learning managment systems, and video conferencing.

At a glance the TEACH Act

  • Not applicable to works designed for use in online education, or works obtained illegally

  • Performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work (can perform in its entirety)

    • Poems, short stories, musical works (popular music)

  • Performance of any other work in reasonable and limited portions

    • Longer media such as full books, musicals, operas, movies, music videos.

  • Display of a work in an amount comparable to the display typical to a face-to-face class

    • If the instructor is holding up an image or something like they would be in class, this is okay.

The TEACH Act only applies to performance and display, educators can not distribute or reproduce these works. Example: It would be illegal for an educator to distribute an online version of Harry Potter to their students unless they contacted the publisher for permission. It would also be illegal to make a piece of popular music available on a learning management system in a way that they could download. In either cases teachers would look to Fair Use for coverage if it applies.

*ALA Teach ACT Coverage

*Teach ACT Breakdown Missouri School Boards' Association

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges. Creative Commons licenses give everyone from individual creators to large institutions a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law. From the reuser’s perspective, the presence of a Creative Commons license on a copyrighted work answers the question, “What can I do with this work?” Check out the type of licenses here.

*Creative Commons


TEACH Act Webinar

Wondering about the application of the TEACH Act in remote teaching/learning? Watch this training video to learn more.

Creative Commons

Search for millions of images, videos, and audio files ready for you to use. This search engine pulls in searches from popular sites like Youtube, Vimeo, and Flickr.

Understanding Copyright and Distance Learning

This video provides a wonderful overview of copyright and distance learning.