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Copyright Issues in TeleLearning

Persons who utilize the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) TeleLearning Center must get permission in writing before using copyrighted materials. If you are an instructor who wishes to show a copyrighted video recording in the teleclassroom, you must have the written permission of the copyright holder. If you are unable to obtain that permission, we cannot transmit the recording.

Overview of Copyright Concerns

In a traditional classroom where face-to-face teaching occurs, the copyright laws permit nearly all displays and performances in a non-profit educational context [US LAW. Copyright Act of 1976, 17.U.S.C. Section 110(1)]. However, it is important to understand the phrase "face-to-face." If images and sound are transmitted to another location, displays and performances are still allowed but within carefully defined limits as detailed in 17.U.S.C. 110(2). The law allows display of nearly all works, but it confines the performance to a "non-dramatic literary or musical work."

In terms of the distance education classroom, it is permitted to display a picture or illustration from a magazine or book, a chart, a map, a photograph, slides from a filmstrip (as long as they are not sequential), or even a still frame from a motion picture. It is permitted to perform musical works and literary works but only if these works are non-dramatic. What is not permitted is the performance of any dramatic work, whether musical or textual, or performance of any work that is neither musical or literary. Motion pictures and video recordings are specifically excluded from what is defined as literary works, meaning that all copyrighted audiovisual works are not permitted to be transmitted (unless you have the permission of the copyright holder).

Copyright Dos and Don'ts


  • Sequential images and/or audio from any format (filmstrips, CD-ROMs, DVDs, or other digital files) cannot be transmitted without written permission.
  • As an alternative, you can obtain a separate, legal copy of the recording and send it to the distance classroom. It can be shown to students "locally" (played back at the distant classroom directly in the classroom). Thus, the students there can see and hear the recording with no violation of the copyright law.
  • We have found here at UNCG that when we ask a copyright holder for permission to show their video in our telelearning environment, explain that environment to them, and assure them that only the students registered in our classes will see the program and that no copies will be made on archive recordings, we have always been granted permission to show the video.
  • It should be pointed out that locally produced recordings, i.e., recordings made by the professor or instructor that are not copyrighted, MAY be used in the TeleLearning classrooms. These type of recordings are not covered by copyright restrictions.

Additional Information

Copyright law is a complex and often confusing subject. For more information, please see the following: