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Copyright Basics: Guidelines for Use and Copying

What Can Be Copied?

Please note, the May 2012 ruling in the Georgia State University copyright case may change some of the interpretations of copyright law as listed below.


Single Copy for Classroom Use

Faculty may make single copies for scholarly research or for use in teaching or class preparation. In general copies should be restricted to:

  • One chapter from a book.
  • One article from a journal issue or newspaper.
  • Multiple excerpts from a single book or journal issue will be accepted only if the total length of the submission is 10.0% or less of the total length of the book or journal issue.
  • A short story, short essay, or short poem.
  • A chart, diagram, drawing, graph, cartoon, or picture.

Multiple Copies for Classroom Use

Fair use allows multiple copies (not to exceed more than one copy per student in a course) to be made by or for a faculty member for classroom use or discussion, provided that the copying meets the tests of brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect. In addition, all copies distributed to students must have a complete citation and notice of copyright on the first page.

Brevity: Brevity refers to how much of the work you can copy.


  • A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages
  • An excerpt of not more than 250 words.


  • A complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words
  • An excerpt from any prose work up to 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less


  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture contained in a book or periodical issue.

Special Works: Certain works in poetry or prose or in "poetic prose," which may combine language with illustrations and which fall short of 2,500 words, may not be reproduced in their entirety. However, an excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of such a work, and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text, may be reproduced.

Spontaneity: Spontaneity refers to the timing of the decision to make copies.

  • The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual instructor.
  • 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.

According to the rule, the need to copy should occur closely in time to the need to use the copies. If you use something for one semester, it is likely to be seen as fair use. If you use something repeatedly, it's less likely to be considered fair use. The expectation is that you will obtain permission as soon as it is feasible. Using something over a period of years is not within the spirit of the guidelines.

Cumulative Effect: Cumulative Effect refers to the big picture of how many items you are copying per course and how many different sources you’re copying from.

  •  The copying of the material is for only one course, with no more than one copy per student in the course.
  • No more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author
  • No more than three excerpt from the same collective work or periodical volume during a term. Note: These limitations do not apply to current news periodicals, newspapers, or current news sections of other periodicals
  • No more than nine items per course may be distributed

 What Should Be Avoided?

  • Making multiple copies of different works that could substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints, or periodicals.
  • Copying the same works from semester to semester.
  • Copying the same material for several different courses at the same or different institutions.
  • Copying more than nine separate times in a single semester.
  • Copying may not be used to create, replace, or substitute for anthologies, compilations, or collective works.
  • Copying may not be of or from works intended to be consumable in the course of study or teaching such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and answer sheets, etc.
  • Copying for the purpose of performance is prohibited, except in the emergency situation described above.
  • Copying as a way of avoiding purchase is forbidden, given the reasonable availability of the material.
  • No copying is permitted unless the copyright notice, which appears on the printed music, is included.

The use of the copies should be for one course at one school.
The copies should include a notice of copyright acknowledging the author of the work.
NOTE: It is recommended that instructors consider both the special guidelines for instructor and take into account the four factors that are used to evaluate fair use when they are deciding what and how much of a copyrighted work to use.

Audio/Visual Materials Use

Videotapes, DVDs: Classroom Use

Borrowing from the library a videotape or DVD does not give the person in possession of the video or DVD the right to show that work to others. The copyright owner determines the circumstances in which the work may be performed. However, use of this type of media in a nonprofit educational institution is allowed, without obtaining permission, under certain conditions as specified in Section 110 (1) of the Copyright Act of 1976 and in House Report (94-1476).

  •     They (videotapes or DVD's) must be shown as part of the instructional program
  •     They must be shown by students, instructors, or guest lecturers
  •     They must be shown either in a classroom or other school location devoted to instruction
  •     They must be shown either in a face-to-face setting or where students and teachers are in the same building or general location
  •     They must be shown only to students and educators
  •     They must be shown using a legitimate (not illegally reproduced) copy with the copyright notice included

There must be a direct relationship between the videotape or DVD and the course. Videos and DVDs, even in a face-to-face classroom setting, may not be used for entertainment or recreation, whatever the work's intellectual content.

Videotapes, DVDs: Use Outside the Classroom

Videos and DVDs, owned by the College, may be viewed by students, faculty, and staff at workstations or in small group rooms in the Library. Students, staff and faculty members may also checkout videos and DVDs for viewing at home. Videos or DVDs which are to be shown to a larger audience as part of a special program, lecture series, etc. require permission from the copyright owner for public performance rights. Copying a videotape or DVD without the copyright owner's permission is illegal.Off-Air Videotape Recording for Educational Purposes

The following "Guidelines for Off-the-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes" were developed by the Kastenmeir House Committee in 1979 and ratified by a House subcommittee in 1981. Using the fair use doctrine, these guidelines provide for classroom use of most off-air videotaped recordings.

  • Videotaped recordings may be kept for no more than 45 calendar days after the recording date, at which time the tapes must be erased.
  • Video taped recordings may be shown to students only within the first 10 school days of the 45-day retention period.
  • Off-air recordings must be made only at the request of an individual instructor for instructional purposes, not by staff in anticipation of later requests.
  • The recordings are to be shown to students no more than two times during the 10-day period, and the second time only for necessary instructional reinforcement.
  • The taped recordings may be viewed after the 10-day period only by instructors for evaluation purposes, to determine whether to include the broadcast program in the curriculum in the future.
  • If several instructors request videotaping of the same program, duplicate copies are permitted to meet the need; all copies are subject to the same restrictions as the original recording.
  • Off-air recordings may not be physically or electronically altered or combined with others to form anthologies, but they need not necessarily be used or shown in their entirety.
  •  All copies of off-air recordings must include the copyright notice on the broadcast program as recorded.

These guidelines apply only to nonprofit educational institutions, which are further expected to establish appropriate control procedures to maintain the integrity of these guidelines.

AQ Policies

Course packs

Course packs which compile readings into an anthology are recommended when more than nine items need to be distributed to students during a semester or the guidelines for permission requirements listed above are indicated. All copyrighted materials reproduced in course packs require copyright permission and/or payment of fees. Faculty are expected to obtain these permissions and pay any necessary fees themselves.

Library Reserves

Whenever possible, the Grace Hauenstein Library will place the original source (book or journal) on reserve for a faculty member, rather than a copy of that work. Use of personal copies on library reserve must conform to the fair use classroom guidelines or have copyright permission. At the request of a faculty member, the library will place on reserve a copy of excerpts from copyrighted works in accordance with fair use guidelines. These copies may be placed on reserve for one academic semester and may not be used for additional semesters without permission from the copyright holder.

The Library reserves the right to refuse to place items on reserve that do not comply with the copyright law, such as reproductions of entire books or entire issues of journals or course packs or other anthologies a faculty member has compiled, where permissions have not been obtained.

The Library is required to remove all course reserves at the completion of the course.

Materials which may be placed on Reserve without obtaining copyright permission:

  • Instructors’ personal exams/quizzes
  • Instructors’ personal lecture notes/homework solutions
  • Public domain information
  • Most government publications 

Portions of copyrighted materials that may be photocopied or scanned and placed on Reserve without permission from the copyright owner or publisher for one semester (NOT consecutive semesters):

  • A chapter from a book
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or short poem
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book, periodical or newspaper

Material for which copyright permission is needed:

  • Multiple copies of a chapter of a book
  • Multiple copies of an article from a periodical
  • Course packets (readings from various sources)
  • Copies of non-print materials (sound recordings, videotapes, videodiscs, films, slides, photographs and software)
  • Unpublished complete draft of an author’s work
  • Students’ papers 

Copyrighted materials that may NOT be photocopied or scanned and placed on Reserve:

  • Copies of p ages from works intended to be “consumable” in course of study or teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, test booklets and answer sheets (originals are okay)
  • A copy of an entire book, whether in print or out-of-print 

Length of time photocopied/scanned materials may be on reserve:

Photocopies of copyrighted materials may be placed on reserve one semester only without permission. If the instructor wishes to keep these materials on reserve for more than one consecutive semester, permission from the copyright holder must be requested. Once the request has been made the material can remain on reserve pursuant to the copyright holder’s response. If permission is not granted than the material must be taken off reserve.

Number of photocopies of each item that can be placed on Reserve: One (1)

Posting materials electronically on your CourseConnect page

Faculty who are posting articles, readings, etc. from copyrighted material on CourseConnect should consider the following recommendations:

  • Use materials in the public domain freely
  • Use materials freely if you own the copyright (e.g., exams, syllabi, notes)
  • Whenever possible provide links to full text articles in the Library's databases or to other web sites instead of downloading them onto your own site.
  • If you do post copyrighted materials without securing permission, keep these online for one semester only and restrict access to this material to the students in your class. A bibliographic citation and notice of copyright should appear on the first page of each item.

When in doubt, seek permission.

Interlibrary Loan

The Library obtains photocopies of journal articles or other resources from other libraries for students, faculty and staff, in compliance with subsection 108(G)(2) of the copyright law and the guidelines established by CONTU, the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works. These guidelines set a maximum number of five photocopied articles which may be requested in a calendar year from the most recent five years of a periodical that the Library does not subscribe to. ILL request forms can be submitted online.

The Library also provides photocopies of materials in Aquinas College’s collections to other libraries subject to the same set of guidelines. The copy obtained through interlibrary loan must become the property of the requestor, and its use is limited to private study, scholarship, or research. The requestor must submit a completed interlibrary loan request form for each photocopy requested from another library.

When research needs require copying beyond the limits of Fair Use, permission to copy must be obtained from the copyright owner and/or payment of royalties may be necessary.