Rensselaer Libraries

Related topics:

Highlights of U.S. Copyright Law

Posted: Feb 9, 2017

Since the general revisions of the law by the Copyright Act of 1976 and the 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act, Congress has continued to clarify how copyright protected digital materials can be used.

Below are excerpts of current U.S. Copyight Law, Title 17 of the United States Code, summarizing the rights of copyright holders and the factors determining the "fair use" of protected works for educational purposes.

Section 107 of United States Copyright Law recognizes the individual's need to make single copies, i.e. "fair use" of copyrighted works in pursuit of certain kinds of activities. Section 107 also recognizes the need of teachers occasionally to make multiple copies for instructional purposes. Section 110 specifies how instructors may incorporate copyright protected digital materials into their curriculum materials. The complete text of U.S. copyright law is available from the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

Excerpts from Title 17:

S. 106 - Exclusive Rights Of Owners

Subject to [other provisions of the law] ..., the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  1. to reproduce the copyrighted works in copies or phonorecords;
  2. to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public for sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual work, to display or perform the copyrighted work publicly.
  5. in the case of liteary, muscial, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomines, and pictorial or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  6. in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

S. 107 - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of [the previous sections]..., the fair use of copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is fair use the factors to be considered shall include --

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work;
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not of itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

S.110. Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

  1. performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;
  2. except with respect to a work produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks, or a performance or display that is given by means of a copy or phonorecord that is not lawfully made and acquired under this title, and the transmitting government body or accredited nonprofit educational institution knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made and acquired, the performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work or reasonable and limited portions of any other work, or display of a work in an amount comparable to that which is typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session, by or in the course of a transmission, if —
    • (A) the performance or display is made by, at the direction of, or under the actual supervision of an instructor as an integral part of a class session offered as a regular part of the systematic mediated instructional activities of a governmental body or an accredited nonprofit educational institution;
    • (B) the performance or display is directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content of the transmission;
    • (C) the transmission is made solely for, and, to the extent technologically feasible, the reception of such transmission is limited to —
      1. (i) students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made; or
      2. (ii) officers or employees of governmental bodies as a part of their official duties or employment; and
    • (D) the transmitting body or institution —
      1. (i) institutes policies regarding copyright, provides informational materials to faculty, students, and relevant staff members that accurately describe, and promote compliance with, the laws of the United States relating to copyright, and provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection; and
      2. (ii) in the case of digital transmissions —
        1. (I) applies technological measures that reasonably prevent —
          • (aa) retention of the work in accessible form by recipients of the transmission from the transmitting body or institution for longer than the class session; and
          • (bb) unauthorized further dissemination of the work in accessible form by such recipients to others; and
        2. ( II) does not engage in conduct that could reasonably be expected to interfere with technological measures used by copyright owners to prevent such retention or unauthorized further dissemination;

    Guidelines for Classroom Copying


    The purpose of the guidelines is to state the minimum and not the maximum standards of educational fair use under Section 107 of the [Copyright Act of 1976]. The parties agree that the conditions determining the extent of permissible copying for educational purposes may change in the future; that certain types of copying permitted under these guidelines may not be permissible in the future; and conversely that in the future other types of copying may be permissible under revised guidelines.

    Moreover, the following statement is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the [act]. There may be instances in which copying does not fall within guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.



    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:

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

    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:

    A. - The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below; and
    B - Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below; and
    C. - Each copy includes a notice of copyright.

    (i) 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.

    (ii) 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 per cent of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.

    [Each of the numerical limits states in "i" and "ii" above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or an unfinished prose paragraph.]

    (iii) Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.

    (iv) "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 10 per cent of the words found in the text thereof may be produced.


    (i) The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and

    (ii) 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.


    (i) The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.

    (ii) 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.

    (iii) There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.

    [The limitations stated in "ii" and "iii" above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections for other periodicals.]


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

    (A) - Copying shall not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations, or collective works. Such replacement or substitution may occur whether copies of various works or excerpts therefrom are accumulated or produced and used separately.

    (B) - 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.

    (C) - Copying shall not:

    (a) substitute for the purchase of books, publishers' reprints, or periodicals;
    (b) be directed by higher authority;
    (c) be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
    (d) No charge shall be made to the student beyond actual cost of the photocopying.

This page is maintained by John Dojka

Rensselaer Libraries Twitter Youtube Channel