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Copyright Frequently Asked Questions, Information, & Resources for Faculty

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about copyright use in the classroom, as well as some resources and information about copyright and fair use.

Copyright Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyright?

  • Copyright refers to the right of a creator - an author, artist, composer, etc. - to control the use of his or her work by others. The federal copyright statute, Title 17, U.S. Code, consists of a bundle of exclusive rights (see Section 106, "Exclusive Rights in Copyrighted Works"), including the rights to reproduce, distribute, perform and publicly display a work.

What is fair use?

  • The "fair use" provision of the copyright statute (Section 107 "Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use"), allows for reproduction of portions of copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright owner "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research". Fair use applies to all copyrighted works, regardless of media, including those fixed in print, electronic and multimedia formats. In order to determine whether use of a copyrighted work is "fair", the following factors must be considered: * 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 (this is considered to be the most important factor) For a comprehensive discussion of the Principles of Fair Use, as well as a terrific series of examples illustrating the application of fair use in situations involving the non-profit educational use of print, multimedia, distance learning and electronic reserves, see the University of Georgia's Regents Policy on the Use of Copyrighted Works in Education and Research.

What are the "Guidelines for Classroom Copying"?

  • The Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions With Respect to Books and Periodicals, written by a group consisting of the Ad Hoc Committee of Educational Institutions and Organizations on Copyright Law Revision, the Authors League of America, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), were published as part of the House Report that accompanied the Copyright Act of 1976. It is important to note that the purpose of these guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use. There may be instances in which copying that does not fall within the guidelines may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use. The Guidelines allow a single copy to be made by or for a teacher for his or her scholarly research or for use in teaching or preparation to teach a class, of any of the following: * a chapter from a book; * an article from a periodical or newspaper; * a short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work; * a chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper. The Guidelines allow for the reproduction of multiple copies for classroom use, as long as the copying meets the tests of brevity (such as a short poem or article, or 10% of a book), spontaneity (the inspiration and decision to use the work at the moment that would most benefit students did not allow for sufficient time to seek permission), and cumulative effect (this test limits the copying of works from the same author, collective work or periodical volume during one class term, as well as the number of instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term).

Copyright Information and Resources