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Copyright Education for Students (PDF, 3.8MB)
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U. S. Copyright Law and Fair-Use Guidelines for Books and Periodicals

Copyright law begins with the premise that the copyright owner has exclusive rights to the uses of a protected work, particularly the right to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works, and publicly display or perform the work. The Copyright Act of 1976 set forth several exceptions to those rights. The most important exception to owners' works is the right to fair use.

The following is the full text of the fair-use statute from United States Code, Title 17, Section 107 of the U. S. Copyright Act of 1976. For additional information on copyright, see the U. S. Copyright Office Web page.

1. Single Copies for Teachers

A single copy may be made of any of the following by or for a teacher at his or her individual request for his or her scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation for class:

  1. A chapter from a book;
  2. An article from a periodical or newspaper;
  3. A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work;
  4. A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper;
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2. Multiple Copies for Classroom Use

Multiple copies (not to exceed in any event more than one copy per pupil in a course) may be made by or for the teacher giving the course for classroom use or discussion; provided that:

  1. The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below; and,
  2. Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below; and,
  3. Each copy includes a notice of copyright.
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    (i) Poetry: (a) A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or, (b) from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
    (ii) Prose: (a) Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or (b) an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.

    [Each of the numerical limits stated in "i" and "ii" above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or an unfinished prose paragraph.]

    (iii) Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
    (iv) "Special" works: Certain works of poetry, prose or in "poetic prose" which often combine language with illustrations and which are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety. Paragraph "ii" above notwithstanding such "special works" may not be reproduced in their entirety; however, an excerpt compromising not more than two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text thereof, may be reproduced.


    (i) The copying is at the instance and inspiration of an individual teacher, and
    (ii) The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.

Cumulative Effect

    (i) The copying of the materials is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
    (ii) Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay, or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
    (iii) There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.

    [The limitations stated in "ii" and "iii" above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.]

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3. Prohibitions as to I and II Above

    Notwithstanding any of the above, the following shall be prohibited:

    (A) Copying shall not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. Such a replacement or substitution may occur whether copies of various works or excerpts therefrom are accumulated or reproduced and used separately.
    (B) There shall be no copying of or from works intended to be "consumable" in the course of study or of teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets and answer sheets and like consumable materials.
    (C) Copying shall not:
      (a) substitute for the purchase of books, publishers' reprints or periodicals;
      (b) be directed by a higher authority;
      (c) be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
    (D) No charge shall be made to the student beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.

    Agreed March 19, 1976.

      Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law Revision:


      Author-Publisher Group:

        Authors League of America: By IRWIN KARP, Counsel.

      Association of American Publisher, Inc;

        Chairman, Copyright Committee.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include --

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

These guidelines are intended to be a set of minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use. If copying stays within the above guidelines it is considered to be fair use.

Where an anticipated use falls outside the boundaries of these guidelines, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. Publishers and authors are fairly accommodating in granting permission for educational use of their works.

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Further Reading

Interested in learning more? The Association of Research Libraries, a non-profit organization of 123 research libraries in North America, has released a white paper, "Educational Fair Use Today," that discusses three recent appellate decisions concerning fair use.

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Source: Bruwelheide, Janis H. (1995), The Copyright Primer for Librarians and Educators, (2nd ed.), Chicago: American Library Association, and Washington: National Education Association