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Use Copyrighted Materials in the Classroom: Overview of Classroom Use

Use this guide for information and guidance on copyright issues.

Classroom Exemptions and Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.

Source: U. S. Copyright Office.

Always use the principles of Fair Use and other exemptions first to determine if a use is within copyright law.  You can always seek permission on your own.

The four factors to be considered in determining fair use are:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Source: U.S. Copyright Office

Making Copies

Single copies may be made by or for teachers for scholarly research and class preparation.  These guidelines include:

  • a chapter in a book
  • an article from a periodical (magazine, journal, newspaper, etc.)
  • a short story, short essay or short poem
  • a chart, diagram graphic, picture or drawing

Multiple copies may be made for classroom use, not to exceed one copy per pupil, and must:

  • Meet the tests for spontaneity and brevity;
  • Meet the test for cumulative effect; and
  • include a notice of copyright on each copy.