Copyright law recognizes the need for professors and students to be able to use copyrighted works in the course of teaching activities. See Copyright in the Information Age section on Using Copyrighted Resources for expanded information on permissible copying, single copies for research and teaching use, multiple copies for classroom use, multimedia use, and more.
This is the most general of the limitations on the rights of copyright owners. It attempts to balance the needs of teachers and researchers with those of copyright owners. The fair use doctrine allows for certain uses of copyrighted works, without permission or payment, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including, in some instances, multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.
Fair use is a "rule of reason," and because there is no universally adopted definition of fair use, the interpretation of how much use constitutes fair use is a matter of much debate. See Copyright Basics for further information on the four factors used in determining fair use. The University of Minnesota provides a fair use checklist that is useful in decision making. See: http://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/FU-checklist.pdf
Performances and Displays in an online/ distance education setting: the T.E.A.C.H. Act
The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act pertains to the use of copyrighted digital materials (e.g. video) in distance eduction settings.
The TEACH act applies only if a set of strict conditions is fulfilled. Both NC State and UTexas have prepared clear documentation and checklists to help instructors: