General Guidelines for Educational Fair Use

  • Assume everything has a copyright, whether declared or not.
  • Copies can only be made from legally acquired originals.
  • Use should be for instruction, not for commercial, entertainment, or reward uses.
  • Copies must contain copyright information and/or attribution.
  • No more than one poem, article, story, or essay, or two excerpts, may be copied from a single author, no more than three copies may be made from the same collective work or periodical issue, and no more than nine copies in total, not counting “current news” items, may be made within a single quarter without permission.
  • Fair use must be “at the instance and inspiration of a single teacher,” meaning without sufficient time to obtain permission and not be directed by a “higher authority.” Continuing to use a resource for subsequent quarters requires permission.
  • Don’t create anthologies, compilations, or collective works from multiple sources, either all at once or in installments.
  • Don’t copy “consumable” items, such as lab worksheets, standardized tests, workbooks, etc.
  • Copyrighted material may not be posted to a “public forum,” including the Internet, without permission. It is our opinion that Blackboard, because it is a closed, password-protected system, does not constitute a “public forum,” and thus these guidelines apply equally to both physical distribution in a classroom and online distribution via Blackboard.

Fair Use Length Guidelines

Printed Material
PoemsUp to 250 words.
Articles, Stories, Essays < 2,500 wordsEntire article, story, or essay.
BooksUp to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is fewer, but can use at least 500 words.
Charts, Pictures, Illustrations, Cartoons1 per book or periodical issue.
Picture Books (e.g. Children’s Books)Up to 2 pages.
Sheet MusicUp to 10%, but less than a complete section, movement, or aria. Emergency copies before a performance may be made, if later replaced
Illustrations, Pictures
Individual WorksUp to 5 images per artist/photographer.
CollectionsUp to 10% or 15 images, whichever is fewer.
Classroom ViewingAllowed for educational purposes
For Presentation or ProjectUp to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is shorter
Classroom ListeningAllowed for educational purposes.
For Presentation or ProjectUp to 10% or 30 seconds, whichever is shorter.
Broadcast TV (ABC, PBS, etc.)Allowed for educational purposes.
Cable (CNN, HBO, etc.)Generally requires permission.
Linking to Internet resources is preferred over actual content. If you do use content, restrict usage to the fair use length guidelines above and include attribution and source.
Software may be installed on multiple computers, but the maximum number of computers simultaneously using the software cannot exceed the number of software licenses purchased. Simultaneous use and prevention of copying must be “aggressively enforced.”

Getting Permission

Getting permission from the copyright owner includes determining who owns the copyright, which can be complicated, and then formally requesting permission, including precise information regarding what material is to be used, along with the intended use. For a detailed discussion, including sample permission request forms, see Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Office’s guidelines for obtaining permission at

References and Additional Information

Copyright Infringement Policy

A school may use this sample statement to meet the requirement that it disseminate a summary of the penalties for violating federal copyright law. The use of this sample summary is optional. Summary of Civil and Criminal Penalties for Violation of Federal Copyright Laws Copyright infringement is the act of exercising, without permission or legal authority, one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner under section 106 of the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code). These rights include the right to reproduce or

distribute a copyrighted work. In the file-sharing context, downloading or uploading substantial parts of a copyrighted work without authority constitutes an infringement. Penalties for copyright infringement include civil and criminal penalties. In general, anyone found liable for civil copyright infringement may be ordered to pay either actual damages or “statutory” damages affixed at not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work infringed. For “willful” infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work infringed. A court can, in

its discretion, also assess costs and attorneys’ fees. For details, see Title 17, United States Code, Sections 504, 505. Willful copyright infringement can also result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 per offense. For more information, please see the website of the U.S. Copyright Office at

“Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians,” U.S. Copyright Office:
Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University:
Blackboard Copyright Best Practices:
Hall Davidson’s Copyright Resources: