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What you’ll discover:

Fair Use for Teachers: Copyright Protection in a Nutshell
The Exemption for Classroom Usage
Additional Alternatives in the Public Domain

Teach by example if you want your kids to be decent citizens. When utilizing copyrighted works in the classroom, it’s critical to understand what you may legally use, when and how. Here’s a summary of key copyright regulations and exemptions for instructors, so you may return to class with confidence.

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In a Nutshell: Copyright Protection

So, what exactly is a copyright? The copyright holder (typically the author or creator) is granted exclusive rights to reproduce the work, make derivative works, and distribute copies under Title 17 of the United States Code. Unless you have secured permission from the copyright holder, using copyrighted works without permission is considered infringing on the copyright holder’s rights. If you’re ever unclear whether it’s OK to utilize a copyrighted work as a teacher, requesting formal permission from the copyright owners eliminates ambiguity.

Teachers’ Fair Use

The notion of fair use, derived from Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act (17 USC 107), is a key restriction of copyright. In layman’s words, copyrighted works may be used for teaching and instruction as long as they are:

Non-commercial in nature only comprises a little element of the work and does not severely restrict the holder’s ability to disseminate the work.

For example, taking a two-page snippet from a book of 300 pages is likely to be judged reasonable. Excerpting two pages from a six-page book, on the other hand, might be deemed copyright infringement.

The Exemption for Classroom Usage

Congress introduced an additional exception along the lines of Fair Use with the passage of the TEACH Act. The Classroom Use Exemption provides for the performance and exhibition of copyrighted works as long as the copy was acquired legitimately, is used for educational purposes at a non-profit institution, and is done face-to-face. This exception would let a professor to screen the film Citizen Kane in its entirety in a cinematography class; but, it would not permit the same professor to broadcast the film to each student at home, nor would it permit the students to get copies of the film. Music or fine art may also come under the classroom use exception, but they must all fulfill the same requirement.

The Public Domain

The most secure approach is to depend on resources in the public domain. These works are not protected by copyright. For example, works made by federal government officials as part of their official duties, as well as those published before 1923, are deemed to be in the public domain. Nevertheless, because to the complexities of copyright law in the United States, the copyright status of each work should be checked. Unpublished works made before 1923, for example, are deemed to be protected by federal copyright, which lasts for the author’s lifetime plus an extra 70 years.

Other Alternatives

Although there are various limitations on how you may utilize copyrighted information, this does not imply you are without possibilities. Teachers may be able to simply read the material aloud rather than making copies; additionally, reserving the specific media at a library, providing links to websites, and creating your own online materials may allow your students to access the materials they require without putting you in legal jeopardy.

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