Performance & Display of Copyrighted Works


I am not a lawyer and this guide does not constitute legal advice. If you have legal questions, please contact a lawyer.
— Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

Section 110 - Exceptions for Performance and Display

The exceptions (or non-infringing uses) for teaching purposes are outlined in Section 110 of the Copyright Act. Section 110(1) addresses face-to-face classroom performances and displays while Section 110(2) addresses transmissions of performances and display, such as in online or hybrid courses.

The exceptions are:

  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
  2. except with respect to a work produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks, or a performance or display that is given by means of a copy or phonorecord that is not lawfully made and acquired under this title, and the transmitting government body or accredited nonprofit educational institution knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made and acquired, the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission, etc... (please refer to link below for the full text of this exception)

See p. 24 of Chapter 1 of the Copyright Act for the full text of Section 110.

See Classroom Showing of Media Materials and the TEACH Act box below for more information about applying these two exceptions. See also Best Practices - Multimedia.

Applying Section 110(2)

Non-dramatic literary or musical works may be performed:

  • reception must be in a classroom or other place normally used for instruction;
  • performance must be directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content;
  • the performance must be part of the systematic instruction of a nonprofit educational institution or government body.

"Literary works" are defined to encompass works other than audiovisual works, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia..." Motion pictures and videos are specifically excluded from the scope of "literary works."

May show a photograph, or chart, or table, or still from a motion picture in an amount analagous to live classroom setting. These are "displays" of works.

May show a reasonable and limited portion of any other work (for a performance).


May not show entire performances of any dramatic work, whether musical or literary, unless permission is obtained.

Example: Embedding a music video made available on YouTube in an online course.


Example: Saving a copy of a music video made available on YouTube and then making the copied file available in an online course. Best practice is to provide a link with attribution.