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Fair Use - Educators Copyright Permissions

Fair Use is one of the most important revisions to copyright law for educators.

Congress in 1976 added section Section 107 to Title 17 named the Fair Use Act.

Fair Use makes special allowances for educators to use copyrighted materials in classroom and research without permission. Conditions of fair use for educators include the requirement that the educator must be employed by a non-profit institution and it is applied to research or classroom use.

Fair use uses four main factors to determine if the copyrighted material is being used appropriately.

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality
  4. Effect on work's value

Fair Use Examples

How to apply Fair Use in the classroom:

I. Single Copying for Teachers 

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

  1. A chapter from a book
  2. An article from a periodical or newspaper
  3. A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work 
  4. A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

II. Multiple Copies for Classroom Use

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: 

  1.  a The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below and,
  2. Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below and,
  3. Each copy includes a notice of copyright Definitions Brevity
    1. 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.
    2. 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.]
    3. Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue. 
    4. "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 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 two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than ten percent of the words found in the text thereof, may be reproduced. 
  1.  (Spontaneity) The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and
  2. 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.

From Congressional Report 94-1476

Teach Act

The TEACH Act (Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act)  passed in 2002 was added to Title 17 as Section 110(2).

The TEACH Act is used in conjunction with Fair Use.  The TEACH Act addresses use of copyrighted work in online or remote education. It mostly focuses on the use of multi-media material in online environment. There are more restrictions on multi-media use in the online class (such as Canvas) than in face to face classrooms.

Here is a helpful TEACH Act checklist that can be used to help determine if you are using materials in your Canvas modules correctly:

Educational Copyright Resources

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