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Copyright for Educators

Please check to see if the items you're using are considered fair use.

Fair Use Guidelines According to the Agreement

The Fair Use doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, recognizing that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder (See section 107 of the U.S. Code Title 17 on Copyright). This allows many uses of copyrighted works without permission from the copyright holder for the purposes of teaching and research.

Copying of copyrighted materials for student learning and research use without written permission may occur in the following instances:

→ A single copy for your use in research or planning:

Single copies may be made of any of the following by or for professors at their individual request for scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation to teach a class:

  • One chapter from a book;
  • An article from a periodical, journal, 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.

→ Multiple copies for student learning use

Multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) may be made by or for the instructor teaching the course for student learning use or discussion; provided that the following three criteria are met:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity (as defined below).
  • The copying meets the cumulative effect test (as defined below).
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright. An example is "this material may be protected by Copyright law (title 17, US Code)."


Brevity: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, (usually varies 3-8 pages depending on size of page and type) or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is greater.

Spontaneity: The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and the inspiration and decision to use the work. 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: Copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.

What Determines Fair Use?

The difference between fair use and infringement is not always clear. A fair use analysis is driven by the unique facts of each use, so reasonable individuals may come to different conclusions about what is considered fair use based on the same set of criteria. The following four factors are considered to determine if a use is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use (eg. commercial vs. educational)*
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the material used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

* Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use! See the Guidelines for Faculty and Instructors page of this guide for more information on restrictions for copying and use for educational purposes.

Explore some of the tools below to help determine whether the use of copyrighted works can be considered fair use: