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Copyright in the classroom

United States copyright law provides important exceptions to the rights of copyright holders that are specifically aimed at nonprofit educational institutions and libraries. Three provisions of the copyright statute are of particular importance to teachers and researchers:

The fair use exception is purposefully broad and flexible, which may make some members of the UC community uncomfortable relying on it. To provide some assistance, the University of California offers the following guidance for fair use in teaching and research. The suggestions below do not ensure that your use will be protected under fair use, but represent practices commonly considered to be fair use.

Copying that does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under fair use. If a proposed use is not covered by the guidelines, you should analyze the particular facts of your situation against the four factors of fair use.

Multiple copies for classroom use

Multiple print or digital copies of articles, book chapters, or other works may be made for classroom use or discussion provided that:

There is a clear connection between the work being copied and the instructor’s pedagogical purpose

The amount copied is tailored to include only what is appropriate for the instructor’s specific educational goals

The access to works distributed online is provided only for the duration of the course for which they are provided, and limited to students enrolled in a course and other appropriate individuals (e.g. teaching assistants for the course)

Each copy includes full attribution in a form satisfactory to scholars in that field

Single copying for teachers

A single copy generally may be made of any of the following for teaching purposes:

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, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

Some examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use

Quotation of excerpts in a review for purposes of illustration, criticism or comment

Quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification

Parody of the content of the work

A summary of an article, with brief quotations

Reproduction of a small part of a work by a teacher or student to illustrate a lesson

Reproduction of a legislative report or judicial proceeding

Other considerations: You should not copy works intended to be "consumable" in the course of study or teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets, and answer sheets. Copying should not substitute for the purchase of books or periodicals.

Online and distance education

Congress passed a law, known as the TEACH Act, that permits the use of copyrighted works for online and distance education in limited circumstances.  The requirements for compliance are somewhat complex, and the TEACH Act should be considered as one of several options available to instructors when using copyrighted works in their distance education courses.

More information about the TEACH act »