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Photocopying Materials for a Lecture

The following are general guidelines for photocopying materials in support of your classroom lecture. These suggested guidelines are based on an interpretation of Circular 21. Please note that these best practices may not fit every situation and it's advisable that you still conduct a Fair Use Evaluation.

Photocopying Guidelines:

The copyright law of the United States (17 USC 106 et seq) governs the making of photocopies and other reproductions of copyrighted material. Individuals making copies are liable for any infringements.

The limits...

  • Poem less than 250 words
  • Excerpt of 250 words from a poem greater than 250 words
  • Articles, stories, or essays less than 2,500 words
  • Excerpt from a longer work (10% of work or 1,000 words, whichever is less)
  • One chart, picture, diagram, graph, cartoon or picture per book or per journal issue
  • Two pages (maximum) from an illustrated work less than 2,500 words (usually books for children)

In addition...

  • No more than one copy per student. Usage must be “at the instance of inspiration of a single teacher" and when the time frame doesn't allow enough time for asking permission
  • Only for one course
  • No more than nine instances per class per term (current news publications such as newspapers can be used more often)
  • Don't create anthologies
  • Don't do it every term
  • Copies may be made only from legally acquired originals
  • If time allows, always seek permission from the publisher
  • Can't be directed by "higher authority" (i.e. your boss, supervisor, etc.)
  • Copying can't be a substitute for buying (i.e., faculty who do not want to make their students purchase the book)

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (pdf) was passed into law in 1998 to address some of the issues unique to digital copyright. In order to help copyright holders protect their digital content, the DMCA contains provisions forbidding circumvention of digital protections and protecting copyright management information.

The anti-circumvention provisions prohibit the unauthorized circumvention of technological measures which control access to or restrict the use of a copyright-protected work. Such technological measures may involve a password or encryption; breaking the password or encryption is illegal.

Copyright management information includes the title of a work, the name of the author or copyright holder and other identifying information. Intentionally removing or altering such information violates a provision of the DMCA.

Note: Multimedia projects that are educationally-related are only valid for a duration of two years from the date of creation. After the two year period has expired the content can no longer be displayed.


Copying Music

The following are suggested limits for copying music in support of your classroom lecture. These suggested limits are based on an interpretation of guidelines that were developed during CONFU (Conference on Fair Use). The use of portions larger than those described here may also be permissible, but the user must test a particular application against all four factors of the Fair Use Doctrine contained in the law (Title 17, U.S. Code, Sec. 107) to determine if it qualifies as fair.

It is permissible to create a compilation CD of separate music tracks for classroom use, if it adheres to the proportions and limits below 





         Additional Guidelines

Film or Video


Up to 3 minutes


Music, lyrics,  music video


30 seconds

      No change to character 

               of work or melody



CONFU: Conference on Fair Use

CONFU guidelines clarify the application of fair use of copyrighted works in the digital educational environment. CONFU guidelines are particularly useful for educators and students who are working on educationally-related projects like video podcasting, multimedia projects utilizing sound and videos.

Based on CONFU guidelines educators and students do not need to get copyright permissions if they make a good faith effort to adhere to the suggested limits for multimedia (see Educational Guidelines tab).

Exemptions for nonprofit libraries and archives are covered in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (Specifically, Section 404 of the DMCA amends the exemption in section 108 of the Copyright Act to accommodate digital technologies and evolving preservation practices).


Placing Items on Library Reserve

Reserve Guidelines

Photocopied material will be placed on E-Reserve only within the limits suggested by the Copyright Law of 1976 and related educational guidelines. Books placed on Reserve do not require copyright permission; examination copies and items owned by other libraries cannot be placed on Reserve.

As library staff interpret the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Law (17 USC 106 et seq), the library will accept for E-Reserve a single copy of an article from a journal or a single chapter of a book without permission of the copyright holder.

If an instructor wishes to use the same photocopy for more than one semester, permission from the publisher may be necessary. Such permission must be obtained by the instructor.

Library staff will not place items on Reserve if those items are considered in violation of copyright; exceptions to Copyright Law will not be made.