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Copyright Laws



copyright\ -,rit\n (1735): The exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell the matter and form of a literary, musical, or artistic work.


What can I copy?

You may make a single copy of a chapter from a book; a newspaper or magazine article; a short story, short essay, or short poem; or a single-chart, graph, diagram, drawing cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper for personal, research, or classroom use.

May I make multiple copies for classroom use?

Yes, but copy length is limited: You may copy a whole poem only if it is under 250 words (or a 250-word excerpt from a longer poem); a whole article, story, or essay only if it is less than 2,500 words (or an excerpt if it is less than 1,000 words or 10 percent of a work, whichever is less); a single chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or magazine; and only two pages of a picture book (as long as the two pages don’t contain more than 10 percent of the total text of the book).

How many copies may I make?

You may make a single copy of the items listed above if the copy is for the personal use, research or teaching. For multiple copies for classroom use you can make only enough copies for each pupil enrolled in the course, i.e., no “extra” copies. You may not copy more than one entire item (or two excerpts) from a single author, or three articles from a single book or periodical volume during one class term (semester or year, depending on the course). You cannot have more than nine instances of multiple copying per course during a class term.



How can I use a radio or television program in class?

You may record a program as it is broadcast by a local radio or television station; you may, within 10 school days of recording the program, use it once with each class for instructional purposes and once again for reinforcement. From the 11th day through the 45th calendar day after the broadcast, it may be used only for evaluation purposes; after that period, you must erase the recording unless you have obtained permission from the copyright holder) to keep it.

You may make copies of the recording to meet the needs of other teachers, but all copies share the same time restrictions as the original. Unless you have specific permission (as with National Geographic specials and some Project Discovery programs), you may not use recordings made from cable-only television channels. See Cable in the Classroom magazine for permissions.

I have a 16mm film; it would be easier to use on video. Can I have it copied?

To make a copy of an audiovisual work, other than one recorded under the off-air taping guidelines (above), requires permission of the copyright holder. In most cases, a polite, well-written letter explaining the circumstances will result in permission being granted, but don’t make the copy until you receive permission.

We have a video program that was very expensive to purchase and I’m worried that it might be damaged by accident. Since it’s okay to make a backup of computer software, isn’t it okay to make a backup copy of this tape?

No. In order to make a backup copy of a video program, you must have purchased “archival rights” from the copyright holder or receive written permission prior to making the copy.


 May I show rented tapes in class?

Yes, if you rent a tape that applies to your instructional needs and use it in “face-to-face” instruction, and if the showing occurs in a classroom or other instructional place, and if only teachers and students in the class view the showing. In such a situation, the showing would fall under the fair use guidelines.

No, if the tape is to be shown as a “reward.” Rental stores do not ordinarily purchase the public performance rights required for a reward or entertainment showing to a public group (a class constitutes a public group and therefore doesn’t qualify for a fair use exemption). Many libraries purchase public performance rights, but you should ask.

I wish to remove an objectionable scene from a movie I plan to show. May I edit the scene out?

You aren’t required to show an entire video, but you may not edit the program. If you wish to skip the objectionable scene, you can fast-forward past it.


Administrative Note:

Always use discretion in showing rented videos in your classroom, making certain that you choose only those that are appropriate. Check the ratings regarding language, sex, violence, nudity, and morality, and if in doubt, don’t show it.



When and how may I use the copies?

You, the teacher, must make the decision to make the copies. (Your principal or supervisor is not allowed to tell you to make copies of copyrighted material.) You must decide to make the copies so close to the time you would need them in class that writing for and receiving permission would be impractical. (Two weeks would be a reasonable time.) You may copy the item for only one course (all your English I classes, for example). Each item copied must have a notice of copyright.

This sounds hard! Why don’t you just tell me what I can’t copy?

You may never copy, in any form, items intended to be consumable. That includes workbook pages, standardized tests, coloring books, answer sheets, and test booklets. You also may not make so many different copies that you are, in effect, creating your own textbook. Copying cannot take the place of books, publisher’s reprints, or magazine subscriptions. You can’t charge students for copying above the actual cost of the copies. And you can’t copy the same materials from semester to semester. In other words, if you copied it last semester, you can’t copy it again without getting permission from the copyright owner.


Computer Software

What can I copy?

Nothing . . . without express permission from the copyright holder. The one exception to this rule is that if you have purchased a copy of the software, you may make one backup copy of the original diskettes. This backup copy is only for emergency purposes and it may never be used unless the original copy is somehow destroyed or lost. The software may be copied onto the hard drive of the computer in order to run the program, but it is against the law to maintain simultaneous copies in different hard drives.

How many copies may I make?

Same as above. You may have only one backup copy of a computer program. Unless you have a license or other permission, you may not copy a computer program onto another computer. This includes loading a program into more than one computer by using one diskette intended for a single user.

Computer manuals and documentation are covered in the same manner as computer programs. You may not make multiple copies of computer documentation for classes. Copying a computer program intended for a single user onto a network is the same as making multiple copies of the program. It’s a no-no. A network license is required to load a computer program onto a network, despite the fact that the program may, indeed, work in a network environment. So don’t do it.

How long can I keep it?

As long as you own the program, you may keep a copy of a computer program on your hard drive and a backup copy, in addition to the original diskettes or CD. If you should lose the copy on the hard drive, you may reload the program from the original or backup disks. If you sell or transfer the program to another person, you must transfer all diskettes and documentation to the new owner, and you must remove all copies of the program from your computer’s hard drive and memory.

When and how may I use it?

Use of a computer program is usually governed by a license agreement, so it depends. Some licenses say you may freely make copies, others say you must pay a fee to use the software, or to install the software onto multiple machines. This is a contractual agreement and it supersedes the copyright restrictions.

You may not decompile a program and use program instructions in new programs. You may not defeat any form of copy protection built into the program. You may not use a single-user version of software on a network. You may not install a program on more than one computer at a time without express, written permission from the copyright owner. This means that you cannot install the program on your computer at home and your computer at school unless you own two copies of the program or have permission to do so from the copyright owner or the software license. Depending on the program, you may also be limited in what you can do with the output of the program. Some educational licenses restrict what you can do with computer output, or mark the output as educational material.



What can I copy?

You may make emergency copies of music for an immediate performance, provided replacement copies have been ordered.

You may copy excerpts (not to exceed 10 percent of a work) provided they do not constitute a performable unit, and provided you make no more than one copy per student.

You may make a single recording of a copyrighted performance by students for evaluation purposes; it may be retained, but copies of it may not be made.

I have an old record. May I copy it to cassette and use that instead?

If the format of the record is obsolete (78 rpm, for example) and no other version is available, you may transfer the recording to a usable format. If the format is still available (33 1/3 rpm or 45 rpm), the transfer would require permission of the copyright holder. An exception allows you to make a single copy for the purpose of auditory exercises or examinations. You may retain the single copy made for such use.

My students are preparing a presentation for class and want to use parts of popular songs. Is this permissible?

If the presentation is created with multimedia software, the students may use up to 30 seconds of a popular song. If the presentation is anything other than multimedia, such use falls into a gray area. Student use is permitted if the students instigate the performance themselves (i.e., the students must decide on their own to use a specific song; the teacher may determine the suitability of the material, but may not tell the students to use a specific song). The music students use should be played from legitimately purchased or borrowed recordings, or recorded off the air.