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Copyright and Fair Use

An overview of copyright and Fair Use in education.

Fair Use: An Overview

A black and white image of balanced scales representing the scales of justice.Educational institutions may use copyrighted works as long as they adhere to the principles of Fair Use. But what is "fair use"? 

There are four factors one must consider when conducting a fair use analysis:

1. Purpose and character of the work

2. Nature of the copyrighted work

3. Amount used

4. Market effect

Every case is different, and depending on the particulars of a given scenario, one of the four factors might weigh more heavily than another in determining whether use of a work is fair use or copyright infringement. Check with Maricopa's Legal Department  ( when in doubt.



Fair Use for Educators

The Fair Use Doctrine:

  • Even in education, not all uses are fair uses.
  • Publishers and the academic community have established a set of "guidelines."
  • The educational fair use guidelines apply to material used in educational institutions and for educational purposes.

"Educational Purposes" means:

  • non-commercial instruction or curriculum based teaching by educators to students in a non-profit educational institution.
  • presentation of research findings at non-commercial peer conferences, seminars, or workshops.

"In general, students and instructors may create multimedia works for face-to-face instruction, directed self-study, or remote instruction provided that the multimedia works are used only for educational purposes in systematic learning activities at nonprofit educational institutions. Instructors may use their multimedia works for teaching courses for up to two years after the first use."

Guidelines for reproducing text for in-class, face-to-face instruction:

  • a chapter from a book (10% of a book with fewer than 10 chapters, or no more than one chapter of a book with more than 10 chapters);
  • an article from a periodical or newspaper;
  • a complete poem if fewer than 250 words or an excerpt of not more than 250 words from a longer poem;
  • a complete article, story, or essay if fewer than 2,500 words, or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less; or
  • one chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
  • no more than one short article, essay, story, poem, or two excerpts may be copied by the same author;
  • no more than three excerpts from the same periodical volume or collective work;
  • generally, teachers have more freedom to copy from periodicals or newspapers for current events;
  • Only nine instances of copying as above permitted per school term per course;

There are additional guidelines for media such as movies and television broadcasts. See Maricopa Legal page on Audio/Visual materials. 

See the Maricopa Legal Department guidelines for using online materials.


Adapted from Stanford Universities Library's Copyright and Fair Use Overview

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