Copyright and Fair Use Information

Display of Copyrighted Works

The Copyright Act, Section 110(1), allows teachers to perform or display a copyrighted work, "in the course of face-to-face teaching activities." Thus, you can use sound recordings, films, or videotapes, slides or any other performance or display of copyrighted works without restriction and without permission, so long as you are teaching students in a classroom. The only exception is that you may not use a film or videotape that you have reason to believe is an illegally made copy.

Distribution of Copies to Class Members
(Hard Copies or Digital Copies)

Photocopying may not be used to substitute for class members' acquiring of books where available. If a book can be found for purchase, class members should acquire it.

Provisions for “Fair use” of copyrighted material have been established in section 107 of the copyright act. The law of fair use is flexible to meet changing needs and circumstances. Copyrighted works may be duplicated and distributed to students under certain conditions without permission of the copyright owner. But four factors must be weighed:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes (material that will be the subject of significant commentary, criticism, or explanation by the instructor is more likely to qualify to be copied and distributed);

  2. the nature of the copyrighted work (e.g. factual works are favored over highly creative works,
    copying unpublished works usually requires permission from copyright owner)

  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. The smaller the portion, the more likely the copying will qualify as fair use. Generally, a strong showing on the other factors will be needed to justify copying more than one chapter of a book, or one article from a periodical or newspaper, or one short story, short essay, or short poem. The amount copied should be limited to that which is necessary for the educational purpose to which it is being put.

  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The original copy should have been lawfully acquired. Is the copyrighted material readily available for purchase? Is it in print or out of print? (The fact that a work is out of print and unavailable through normal channels will favor fair use copying though this may be mitigated if permission to photocopy may readily be purchased.)

Below is a link to "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians," a document prepared by the U.S. Copyright Office. Pages 6-8 refer specifically to guidelines for classroom copying in a not-for-profit educational institution. A link is also provided below to "Fair Use" which outlines the basic factors used to evaluate fair use of copyrighted material. 

Download "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians" (PDF). Refer specifically to pages 6-8.
View the U.S. Copyright Office information about Fair Use:
Study Group Leaders should review the above information and may call the Copyright Office at 202-707-5959 if they have any questions regarding photocopies for their study group.