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What is Copyright?

A set of legal rights given to authors to protect their original, creative expression. These rights give the owner exclusive authority to, and authorize others to:

  • reproduce the work in copies
  • adapt the work
  • distribute the work to the public
  • perform the work publicly
  • display the work publicly

How is a Copyright Obtained?

Protection exists immediately, from the moment the work is created in a fixed form.
Copyright Notice is no longer a requirement to obtaining a Federal copyright. You do not need to publish, register, or perform any other action in the Copyright Office.

What is covered?

Original works that are fixed in a tangible form of expression, including:

  • Literary works
  • Musical works - including accompanying songs
  • Dramatic works including accompanying music
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • Motion pictures and other Audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

What can I copy without permission?

  • Works that have entered public domain
  • US Government Publications
  • Copyrighted materials that fall under the guidelines of Fair Use

What is Fair Use?

Teachers may reproduce copyrighted materials for classroom use and for research without permission and without paying royalties.

  • copying of works not considered an infringement of Copyright protection.
  • reproduction are for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research

Factors of Fair Use - 4 Aspects

To qualify, these factors must be taken into consideration:

  • the character of the use - nonprofit, educational
  • the nature of the work - factual
  • the quantity of the work to be used - small amount
  • the effect on the market - loss of potential revenue

Guidelines for Classroom Use

Multiple copies can be made for one event, with one copy per pupil, for one course under the following conditions:

  • Copying meets the test of brevity and spontaneity
  • Copying meets the test of cumulative effect
  • Each copy includes notice of copyright


As defined in the dictionary: a short and concise expression.

  • a complete poem if less than 250 words and fits on 2 pages
  • an excerpt from a long poem, not to exceed 250 words
  • a complete article, story or essay fewer than 2500 words
  • an excerpt from a larger work not to exceed 10% of the whole or 1000 words, whichever is less
  • One chart, graph, diagram, cartoon or picture per book or per issue of a periodical


As defined in the dictionary: arising from a momentary impulse.

  • The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher
  • The decision to use the work does not allow time to request permission

Cumulative Effect

Something made up of accumulated parts.

  • The material copied is for only one course
  • Only 1 short poem, article, story or essay or 2 excerpts from the same author, or 3 from the same collective work or periodical
  • Up to 9 instances of multiple copying for one course during one class term


Copies must display reference to the original owner, including:

  • Authors name
  • Title
  • Date
  • Source

For a complete listing of the proper formatting when providing a citation, please click on the following URL:  /Library/onlineref/cited/html


  • consumable materials such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, test booklets, answer sheets, etc.
  • copying used to create, replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works
  • copying to substitute for the purchase of books, reprints or periodicals
  • copying cannot be repeated by the same teacher from term to term
  • cannot be charged beyond the cost of photocopying


US Library of Congress, Copyright Office

Copyright Society of the USA

Motion Picture Licensing Corporation

Broadcast Music, Inc.

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

Copyright Clearance Center

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    Phone: (510) 723-6600 | Last updated on 6/24/2015