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Copyright Guidelines

Information about copyright for schools, including the TEACH Act.

Copyright Guidelines for Schools

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information in this document is as accurate as possible. However, this does not constitute legal advice and users should always verify the legal requirements for any uses of copyrighted materials.

Highlights of Copyright

Copyright protects the creator of a work from unauthorized use.

Fair Use Guidelines allow for some uses of copyrighted materials in a teaching situation, with restrictions placed on number of copies, amount of. material copied or displayed and number of uses.

Library users may make copies from copyrighted materials for personal research use.

Commercial video materials may be used in educational settings as part of face-to-face instruction.

Commercial video materials may not be used for public performances, whether fee or free, unless public performance rights have been obtained.

Definition of Copyright

Copyright protects the right of the creator of a work from unauthorized copying. In other words, if you develop a Web page or write a poem, or a book, or a piece of music, no one can reproduce it or sell it without your permission.


Copyright is one method of encouraging people or businesses to take the time and financial risk to produce and distribute information. Problems arise when others want to copy the information you, or others, have worked hard to produce. This really wasn't much of an issue until fast, inexpensive copy and printing machines, audio and video recorders, and computers came into use. Only rarely did anyone bother to copy long passages by hand, and certainly not multiple copies. However, with the advent of these fast, easy methods of copying, where to draw the line between the creators' rights and the users' rights became more complicated.

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons licensing makes it possible for creators of a work to determine what rights they would like to give to users of their work, ranging from placing it fully in the public domain to providing rights to use the work in specified ways.

The Meaning and Importance of the TEACH Act

The TEACH Act became law in 2002 and fully revised Section 110(2) of the U. S. Copyright Act. It governs the lawful uses of copyrighted materials in distance education, including how educators may use clips of text, images, sound, and other works as part of materials prepared for use in a distance education setting.

While Dr. Kenneth D. Crews was Director of the Copyright Management Center at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, he prepared a document for ALA about the significance of the TEACH Act.  Refer to it for specifics such as the duties of instructors, the role of librarians, and more.

For the relevant text of Public Law 107-273, read section 13301, entitled Educational Use Copyright Exemption.

eTool: Exceptions for Instructors

Michael Brewer of ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy created an etool, Exceptions for Instructors, to help individuals determine when use of copyrighted material falls within the guidelines of the TEACH Act or the face-to-face teaching exemption.

A Review of Copyright from the NPC

The National Paralegal College offers detailed explanations about copyright, fair use, and trademarks.

Library of Congress Copyright Tutorial for Students

"Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright" aims to educate students about copyright. The section labeled "Reading the Fine Print" is kind of a visual FAQ on the subject.