Skip to Main Content
UWSP Libraries
Ask A Librarian:

Copyright: Fair Use and the Teach Act

A guide for students, faculty and staff on copyright related to campus activities.

Using Copyrighted Materials in Canvas

Fair Use and the Teach Act



  • Use legally acquired or purchased copies of materials and always include copyright notices and remind students that copyrighted works should not be copied and redistributed to others.
  • Restrict Canvas access to those students enrolled - this is done through authentication
  • Block access to materials after the course has ended - this is automatic
  • When possible, it is preferable to link to electronic material that is already licensed by the library rather than make digital copies.
  • Follow the same principles for fair use that apply to print materials.


Besides obtaining the copyright owner’s permission to use the work, you can select between one of two provisions in the law that allow use of copyrighted materials in Canvas:

  • You can apply the principle of educational fair use (See description of fair use below and go through the Fair Use Checklist from Columbia University's Copyright ) OR
  • You can use the 2002 Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) provisions which were developed to address online education. The TEACH Act permits displays and performances of copyrighted works to be transmitted and used for instructional purposes, without permission of the copyright owner, if a number of conditions are met. In order to qualify you must be an accredited nonprofit educational institution or governmental body. In order to transmit, a work needs to used:
    • By, at the direction of, or under the actual supervision of an instructor
    • As an integral part of a class session, directly related to the teaching content
    • As part of systematic mediated instructional activities
    • As part of a regular course offering of the institution


  • In either case, the transmission shall be made solely for and access should be limited to students enrolled in the course for the period of time when the course is in session. Since Canvas takes care of these requirements automatically, your job is to focus on the content and nature of the materials.
  • A copyright notice should be included and reasonable attempts should be made to limit the students' ability to retain or further disseminate the materials.


Provided that the certain above conditions are met, the TEACH Act allows you to:

  • Transmit a performance of non-dramatic literary or musical works
  • Transmit a reasonable and limited portion of any other work, including portions of dramatic literary works or musical works.
  • Display any work, such as images, in an amount comparable to that typically used in teaching a live classroom session.
  • Transmit materials that are not specifically excluded from the TEACH Act, including:
    • Textbooks, course packs or other material typically purchased or acquired by students for individual use and personal retention
    • Any work that is marketed primarily for performance or display in education for a mediated instructional activity.

Possible Scenarios

You want to make a DVD of an entire film on global warming available on D2L. Does you need to get permission?

Most films fall under the category of dramatic literary or musical works and the TEACH Act specifies use of limited portions of these works. Since at UWSP the Canvas site is restricted to the class and the film was directly related to the class content, a segment that would be comparable to what one would show in an individual class session would probably fall within the TEACH guidelines. If however, you want to show the entire film by streaming it through Canvas, you must either make a fair use case or get permission. Looking at the four factors one can see that the only factor in favor of fair use is the educational use. Factors weighing against fair use would be the highly creative nature of the work, the amount used and the effect on the market effect (students will tend to download the film and thus be able to keep their own copy). If you want to show the entire film, it may be prudent to obtain permission from the copyright holder.

You have scanned several hundred images from various texts to represent 19th century Western architecture. You want to have them available throughout the semester so that your students can consult them as they wish in relationship to the texts they are reading.

Although the works are directly related to the content of the course, aspects of this use would be difficult to justify under the TEACH Act. The amount of the work used goes beyond that which could be construed as a single classroom session and each individual image is considered a complete work. Fair Use may apply in this case, but if the works were used in multiple semesters, permissions may be required. Linking to images available in licensed databases could be a safer choice. The library subscribes to an image database called ARTstor and other databases that include image repositories.

Fair Use


Section 107 of the Copyright Law allows for the "fair use" of a copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Additional guidelines (H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, and The United States Copyright Law: A Guide for Music Educators) permit multiple copies for classroom use under certain circumstances.


The following four factors, taken together, determine what constitutes fair use. The first three factors are usually important in determining the fourth.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether it is intended for commercial or non-profit educational use.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work - published or unpublished, factual or creative.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion to be copied as it relates to the work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of the copyrighted work.

Guides to the Teach Act