Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Use and Misuse of Copyrighted Materials in the Classroom


As the new school year approaches, teachers often wonder what materials they can use to supplement the textbooks provided by their schools. Can you photocopy a short story for your English class? Can you show a movie to your third graders? Are there special rules for materials found on the Internet?

It isn’t possible to give a thorough answer in a blog post, but here are some quick tips. These are general guidelines only. 

  • Printed Material
    • In general, short works and short excerpts of larger works may be copied one-per-student if (1) made from legally acquired originals and (2) there isn’t enough time between the decision to use it and the moment of its use to obtain permission. (This latter condition requires good faith, and the work or excerpt can’t be used again without permission.)
    • Short works and short excerpts of larger works may be incorporated by a teacher into a multimedia presentation (e.g., PowerPoint) for classroom teaching if (1) made from legally acquired originals and (2) there isn’t enough time between the decision to use it and the moment of its use to obtain permission.
    • This copying must not be a frequent occurrence (no more than nine times per class per year).
    • Short excerpts may be incorporated into student multimedia projects if made from legally acquired originals.
    • Current newspaper and news magazine articles may be reproduced.
    • Creating anthologies from copyrighted material is not allowed.
    • Teachers may not reproduce workbooks or other “consumables.”
    • Students may not be charged any more than the actual copying cost.
    • Special rules apply to course packs sold to students.
  • Digital Text (e.g., E-Books)
    • Digital materials are subject to the same rules as print materials.
  • Movies and Television Programs
    • In general, movies and television shows that have been published for general consumption (e.g., commercially sold DVDs) may be shown in the classroom if legally acquired and shown for instructional purposes.
    • Programs recorded from broadcast television (the “free” stations) may be shown within a short time after the program airs (generally ten school days.)
    • Teachers may not use pirated copies or copies made from pirated copies.
    • Admission fees are not allowed, even if charged indirectly.
    • In general, teachers may not use cable television programs recorded from the television.
  • Images (Art and Photographs)
    • Single works may be used if limited to just a few (usually no more than five) images by the same artist or photographer.
    • Excerpts from collections may be used if they are a small part of the collection.
  • Music
    • Copies that have been legitimately obtained may be played for the class.
    • Short excerpts may be included in student multimedia presentations or in those prepared by a teacher for classroom use.
  • Internet
    • Materials on the Internet are subject to the same copyright rules as other materials of the same type. Assume the materials are copyrighted unless you have reason to know they are in the public domain (e.g., federal publications or material published before 1923).
    • Links may be freely shared as long as they do not provide direct access to materials that are password protected.
  • Computer Software
    • Licensing provisions must be honored.
There are no restrictions on material that is in the public domain (e.g., federal publications and material that was first published before 1923). However, annotations and other added material may have to be removed unless they are also in the public domain.

Have a great school year.


Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

No comments:

Post a Comment