Section 110 sets out eleven situations in which performance of a work, including broadcast, "are not infringements of copyright". The major exemptions are outlined in paragraphs 1 to 5. Paragraphs 1 and 2 cover face-to-face instruction, or "distance learning," in non-profit educational settings. Paragraph 3 applies to performance or display in religious settings as part of a worship service. Paragraph 4 applies to non-dramatic literary or musical works (but not plays or video) performed by non-profit groups such as a community band or orchestra. Paragraph 5 is the "small business" exemption.
A performance license need not be obtained if the work is performed or displayed "by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution."
A film shown as part of a fundraiser, or a film series might not qualify as "face-to-face teaching activities." Instruction given to corporate or government employees would not qualify as a "nonprofit educational institution."
Paragraph 2 creates a similar exemption for distance learning. A work may be performed or displayed through transmission to students enrolled in a course, or to government employees as part of their duties, without requiring a performance license. The exemption does not apply to works produced and sold for online distance learning. The performance or display must be made under the direction of the instructor and directly related to, and in aid of, what is being taught: it cannot be used as a pretext for transmission of other works. Nondramatic literary or musical works may be performed in their entirety. For other works, such as display of a film or painting, the performance must be "reasonable and limited." The exemption applies only to distance learning that is part of scheduled classes. Works that are simply posted by an instructor would not be protected. The educational institution must meet certain additional conditions. It must provide information to faculty, students, and relevant staff members describing US copyright law and promoting compliance. For digital transmissions, the institution must take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorized retention or further distribution of copies of the work such as not interfering with any technological means the copyright owner may have used to prevent copying.
Paragraph 3 creates an exemption for performance of nondramatic literary works, musical works, or dramatico-musical works of a religious nature, or display of a work, as part of religious services at a place of worship or religious assembly.
Section 110 (4) creates an exemption for non-profit groups for performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work (but not a play or an opera) if four conditions are met: 1) the work may be performed but may not be transmitted to the public, 2) none of the performers, organizers, or promoters are paid, 3) there is no direct or indirect commercial advantage, and, 4) there is no admission charge, or, after deducting for reasonable expenses the proceeds are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes. The last condition may not be met if the copyright owner has objected by serving written notice to the performing organization which conforms to requirements outlined in the statute.A performance by a non-profit may be recorded and the recording may be privately shared. But posting the recording on a public service such as YouTube constitutes "transmission" within the terms of the statute. The recording is "transmitted" when it is posted, whether or not anyone ever plays it. This is not a trivial consideration. Popular cell phone apps, such as Shazam, and other readily available programs make it possible to automate identification of music posted on public sites.
Paragraph 5 is the "small business exemption," which allows bars, cafes, and restaurants to play the radio or show television programming as "background" in their business. It does not authorize playing recorded music such as using a CD player, or live musical performances. The exemption covers reception of a public transmission on a single receiving apparatus of a kind commonly used in the home if no direct charge is made and the performance is not further transmitted to the public. Very specific limitations are outlined in the statute, such as number of loudspeakers permitted and square footage of the establishment.
A governmental body, or a nonprofit agricultural or horticultural organization, may perform nondramatic musical works in the course of an annual agricultural or horticultural fair without obtaining a performance license.
A public vending establishment may perform nondramatic musical works to promote the sale of copies of the work if there is no admission charge. The performance may not be transmitted beyond the immediate area the sale occurs.
A nondramatic literary work may be performed or transmitted to blind persons or other handicapped persons who are unable to read normal printed material, or to deaf or other handicapped persons who are unable to hear the aural signals accompanying a transmission of visual signals if the performance is made without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and the transmission is made through the facilities of a governmental body, a non-commercial educational broadcast station, a "subcarrier" of an FM broadcast station or a cable system.
A single performance of a dramatic literary work may be transmitted specifically for the blind or other handicapped persons if the work was published at least 10 years before the date of the performance, there is no direct or indirect commercial advantage, and the transmission is made through an FM radio subcarrier as defined in paragraph 8.
The performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work in the course of a social function organized and promoted by a nonprofit veterans’ organization or a nonprofit fraternal organization is exempt. Social functions of college or university sororities or fraternities are not included under the exemption unless the social function is held solely to raise funds for a specific charitable purpose.
Paragraph 11 permits muting or skipping limited portions of the audio or video portions of a motion picture which is transmitted to a household for private viewing. Creating or providing a computer program which facilitates muting or skipping is also permitted, provided no alteration is made in the content, and provided no fixed copy of the altered version is created.