Copyright Laws and Education
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From the US Copyright Office:

What is copyright protected?
The US Constitution and our laws protect completed, original creative works such as literary works, dramatic works and artistic works in a "tangible medium of expression."

When is my work protected?
All creative work is protected upon tangible completion. It is copyrighted automatically, but without registration, little protection is offered in a law suite.
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*Please Note
According to the US Copyright office, "acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission."

Four Fair Usage Guidelines for Teachers

Reproduction without specific permission of a particular item for teaching is allowed as long as the usage is within the following fair use guidelines:

1.    the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes,

2.    the nature of the copyrighted work,

3.    the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and

4.    the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

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Fair Factor Guideline
Ask this to avoid copyright infraction:
Example Within Guideline
Example Outside Guideline
Purpose and Character of Use
Is the reproduction for education?
Worksheets designed for education such as a quiz on run on sentences or a map with state capitals marked by left blank for student completion.

Printing coloring sheets printed for entertainment, contest, or other non-educational purposes. Showing a movie for reward.
Nature of Copyrighted Work
Is this a short excerpt or summary of a piece of work for the purpose of illustration or clarification?
Summarizing a news report or an article for for illustration, i.e. a re-write of a poem or a selection of a longer poem for a lesson.
Making an exact copy of an entire creative work. Decorating with printed copies of famous art. Using photograph images from a blog in your own website.

Amount and substantiality of the portion used
Is this too close to the original in quantity and message? Is the copy focused on fact as opposed to creative content?
Using a song to inspire a writer to write a poem on the same theme. Copying the artist's brush style but not compostion or color.
Writing a song that copies the same melody but uses new words, or visa versa. Making an artistic work that reflects most of the content, composition, message, and colors of the original.

The effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
Does reproduction decrease the value or limit actual purchases of the item?
Selections of a poem that doesn't sell separately to study an element of imagery with William Carlos Williams poem or theme in a Plath poem. Using a selection of an academic scientific report to explain a theory in chemistry.
Passing out digital copies of a popular song to all students in a choir. Photocopying short novels such as The Little Prince or Of Mice and Men for group work in class.
Information in chart is gleaned from

Information sourced from U.S. Copyright Office ( and  Chilling Effects Clearninghouse (
All images from

NETS Project