Face-to-Face Teaching

Classroom Handouts

Under the “fair use” provision in section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, classroom teachers may photocopy and distribute portions of copyrighted works for educational use without securing permission from the owner or paying royalties. Four factors used to help determine fair use are:

  • The purpose and character of use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market.

You may find the following guidelines from the Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals (published in House Report 94-1476, pages 65-74) to be helpful.

Multiple copies (one copy per student in a course) for classroom use must meet the tests of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect; and include a notice of copyright.

  • Brevity+

    • 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.
    • 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 above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or of an unfinished prose paragraph.)
    • Illustration: one chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
    • "Special" works: certain words in poetry or in "poetic prose" often combine language with illustrations and are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety. The second paragraph 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 10% of the words found in the text thereof, may be reproduced.
  • Spontaneity+

    • 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+

    • The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
    • 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.
    • Not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.
    • (The limitations stated above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of periodicals.)

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

  • Copying may not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. A prohibited replacement or substitution occurs regardless of whether copies of various works or excerpts therefrom are accumulated or reproduced and used separately.
  • 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 may not:
    • substitute for the purchase of books, publishers' reprints or periodicals;
    • be directed by higher authority; or
    • be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
  • No charge may be made to the student beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.

Copying Published Music

These guidelines, based on House Report 94-1476, cover emergency copying for performances and limited copying for academic uses such as creating academic and performance exercises and exams and evaluating student performance.

Course Pack

In looking over issues related to copyright and course packs, there are two legal cases which appear to discourage reliance on the concept of Fair Use in compiling course packs.

  • The first is Basic Books Inc. vs. Kinko’s Graphics Corp., also commonly referred to as the Kinko’s case. A federal district court in New York found that materials included in course packs do not fall under the category of fair use.
  • Five years later another case, Princeton University Press vs. Michigan Document Services (The “Michigan Documents” or MDS case), challenged the Kinko’s ruling. But the court upheld the ruling that course packs may not be created under rules of fair use.

If you wish to prepare a course pack, this sample letter  can help you provide the most commonly needed information. You may wish to document that you have received permission by inserting a Course Pack Permission Agreement in the front of the course pack.

Because securing the needed permissions can be tedious, a number of services exist to do it for you including the Copyright Clearance Center (contact the Baker Library) and University Readers.

Further resources on course packs+

  • University of Texas Crash Course in Copyright. The University of Texas provides some important, additional insight. The web pages outline what may be used in a course pack before it reaches a point of copyright infringement. The UT system notes that course packs may include “1) one article from a journal issue, 2) one chapter or other small part from a book, and 3) a few charts, graphs, illustrations or photos.” Beyond this, permission is required from the copyright holder for inclusion.
  • Stanford University Copyright & Fair Use. An extensive amount of information regarding the use of course packs and copyright laws may be found at their website.


Showing videos and DVDs

In general, the use of an original DVD or video in a face-to-face classroom environment at a non-profit educational institution is permissible, however, the Consortium of College and University Media Centers developed a set of specific Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia, for the use of such materials Wellesley College has a succinct section in their copyright policy that may be helpful.

Sound Recordings

In general, rules regarding music copyright deal mostly with the copying and public performance of musical works. The Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia from House Report 94-1476 may be helpful.


In general, the display of lawfully made copyrighted images in a face-to-face classroom environment at a non-profit educational institution is permissible; however, greater restrictions apply to the reproduction of copyrighted images. You may find the Wellesley College Copyright Site to be useful.

Creating Multimedia Works

The Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia covers educational material created by faculty as part of curriculum-based instruction, or by students as part of an assignment, whether face-to-face, self-directed study, or at a distance. The Guidelines also provide provisions for inclusion of copyrighted multimedia as part of conference presentations or professional portfolios. Limitations are based on time, portion, copying, and distribution.

According to these Guidelines, instructors should limit the use of the educational multimedia projects containing copyrighted material to a period of two years after the first instructional use. However, the limitations on copying may alter this time period.

Guidance for the amount of material that can be copied, performed, displayed (taken from the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia).

  • Motion media (e.g., video): Up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less.
  • Text material: Up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less
  • Music, Lyrics, Music Video: Up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds.
  • Illustrations, Photographs No more than 5 images from an artist/photographer, or no more than 10% or 15 works from a published collective work.
  • Numerical Data Sets (e.g. databases): Up to 10% or 2500 fields, whichever is less.