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Copyright Guidelines

For guidelines about copyright, fair use, and links to further resources.

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Reproduction Basics

The following guidelines are excerpted from the U.S. Copyright Office's circular report entitled "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians" (2014 - the full text of the document is linked below). They apply to classroom copying in a non-profit educational setting for a face-to-face classroom, and they do not discuss material covered under Creative Commons Licenses.

These guidelines are not intended as official legal counsel. Note that the report itself explains the following: "There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use."

Please note also that Fair Use is a balancing scale; one must establish more criteria in favor of Fair Use than against. It is important to note that these guidelines do not ensure Fair Use. To determine whether or not your use of a copyright protected work constitutes Fair Use, please use the Fair Use Checklist linked below:

Photocopier Copyright Notice

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material; the person using this equipment is liable for any infringement.

For more information about copyright law, the rights of copyright owners, and the right of fair use to make limited copies for purposes such as teaching, research & study visit the Copyright Clearance Center website at

Guidelines for Single Copies

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

  • A single chapter from a book;
  • A single 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.

Guidelines for Multiple Copies

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:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity
  • Meets the cumulative effect test
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright and the appropriate citations and attributions

Guidelines Definitions

Guideline Definitions


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 of an unfinished prose paragraph.)

iii. Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue.

Obtain permission for materials that will be used repeatedly by the same instructor for the same class.

"Special Works"

Certain works in 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, 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 comprising 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 the individual teacher, and 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 material is for only one course in the school 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 "i" and "ii" above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.

Prohibitions as to "I" and "II" above:

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

i. Copying shall not be used to create or replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. Such replacement or substitution may occur whether copies of various works or excerpts therefore are accumulated or reproduced and used separately.

ii. 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 material.

Copying shall not:

i. substitute for the purchase of books, publishers' reprints or periodicals;

ii. be directed by higher authority;

iii. be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.

No charge for single copies shall be made to the student beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.

Performance in Face-to-Face Courses

In addition to Fair Use, title 17 of the United States Code, section 110(1) permits the display and performance of others’ works in the face-to-face classroom. An instructor may show or perform any work related to the course curriculum in a face-to-face setting regardless of the medium including music, images and movies. For example, an instructor can show an entire film in class without obtaining permission.

However, the instructor must use a lawfully acquired copy of the work.