What is copyright?
What works are protected?
What is not protected by copyright?
The exception of copyright law
Fair use guidelines
Copyright infringement
How to obtain permission

Reproduction of copyrighted material without prior permission of the copyright owner, is an issue of concern for the academic community. Ironically, the impropriety of much unauthorized copying is often overlooked by users in an educational setting.

Although copying all or part of a work without obtaining permission may appear to be an easy and convenient solution to an immediate problem, such unauthorized copying can frequently violate the rights of the author or publisher of the copyrighted work, and is contrary to the academic mission to teach respect for ideas and for the intellectual property that expresses those ideas.

What is copyright?
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the copyright laws of the United States and protects "original works of authorship." This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Current federal law does not require works be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or carry the copyright symbol (©) in order to be protected.

The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.

What works are protected?
Copyright protects "original works of authorship" that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. Copyrightable works include the following categories:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

What is not protected by copyright?
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression;
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents;
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration; and
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship.

The exception of copyright law
The following four factors apply when determining fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Is all copying by educational institutions fair use? No. Although the Copyright Act includes teaching, scholarship and research, along with making "multiple copies for classroom use," as among the uses of copyrighted works that may qualify as fair use, none of these uses automatically qualifies as a fair use. Both Congress and the Supreme Court have rejected the notion that all "educational uses" or all uses by educational institutions are fair uses. Whether copying for these or any other uses constitutes "fair use" must be determined, within the facts and circumstances of each particular use, by application of the four statutory criteria (see below).

Fair use guidelines
Single Copying for Teachers
A single copy may be made of any of the following by or for a teacher to be used for research or teaching:

  • A chapter from a book;
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper;
  • A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work; and
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

Multiple Copies for Classroom Use
Multiple copies (not to exceed 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:

  • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below;
  • Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below; and
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright ("Reprinted from title by author. Copyright © year by publisher.").


1. Poetry

  • A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on no more than two pages; and
  • From a longer poem, an excerpt of no more than 250 words.

2. Prose

  • Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words; and
  • An excerpt from any prose work of no more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.

3. Illustration

  • One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue.


  • The copying is done at the time of inspiration of the individual teacher; and
  • The inspiration and decision to use the work 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, and no more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term; and
  • There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.

The construction of coursepacks does not meet the guidelines of fair use. Coursepacks are considered anthologies and require the copyright owner's permission for each included work.

Copyright infringement
Copyright infringement occurs when one makes an unauthorized copy or reproduction of a copyright protected work without permission of the author/creator.

How to obtain permission
Complete a Copyright Permissions Request Form and submit it along with the following:

  • A photocopy of the material you wish to reprint (including visible page numbers);
  • A photocopy of the copyright page including all publishing information; and
  • A photocopy of the front cover of the original source.

Upon receipt of your request, the Permissions Department will process and forward it to the appropriate copyright owner for their approval. Please note that the process may take 6-8 weeks (sometimes longer) to complete, so plan ahead.

Send questions and requests to: Lori Fedele, Textbook Services Manager.


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