U.S. Copyright Law grants some specific exceptions to the rights of copyright holders to promote educational activities. These exceptions are broadest in the traditional, nonprofit, face-to-face, in-person classroom (Section 110(2)). In this setting, instructors (including guest lecturers) and students are allowed to perform and/or display copyrighted works, even in their entirety, without obtaining permission or even conducting a fair use analysis. Common scenarios include:
This broad Classroom Exemption does not apply in online settings such as distance education courses, which must rely on different provisions like fair use and those put in place by TEACH Act. You cannot rely on this exception to distribute copies of copyrighted works to your students, whether in class or through Canvas.
Instructors who are teaching a distance course or placing copyright materials on a course website must rely on two other important areas of copyright law to determine whether or not it is necessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder. Remember, the TEACH Act is explicitly defined and lacks most of the flexibility offered by fair use. In many cases, you will need to rely on both exceptions--or even entirely on fair use--to meet your educational goals.