The proliferation of RIAA lawsuits against individuals for peer-to-peer file-sharing make clear that individuals can be liable for their own actions when they copy and distribute others' copyrighted works without permission.
Universities and libraries are also liable for any infringements done by their employees or students
Fair use , a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work, is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.
It used to be safe to say that reasonable analog educational, research and scholarly uses were fair uses. But this appears to be changing. Those same activities in the digital world are being challenged, mostly because copyright owners have gone to such lengths to make the rights we need to carry out those activities easy to obtain and reasonably priced through collective licensing (the Copyright Clearance Center, in particular).
Copyright law provides educators with a separate set of rights in addition to fair use, to display and perform others' works in the classroom .
Until recently, however, when the classroom was remote, the law's generous terms for face-to-face teaching in Section 110(1) shrank dramatically in Section 110(2) -- some would say to the vanishing point!