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Copyright Reference Guide For Educators

Classroom Use of Copyrighted Content Guidelines Chart

The Classroom Use Exemption together with the fair use provisions afford educators certain rights to reproduce, display, and perform copyrighted content in a non-profit, face-to-face, in-person, classroom setting. The following chart is designed to inform SMCCD faculty members on how they may use a particular work and how much of a work may be used in classroom teaching. It should be kept in mind, however, that the chart below provides only guidelines and no absolute rules. It is generally recommended to use content that is clearly in the public domain, within the scope of existing private or public copyright licenses, with the permission of the owner, or within the limited scope of fair use for educational purposes.

Use of Copyrighted Content in Classroom


What You Can Do


The Fine Print

Printed Material

  • 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--but a minimum of 500 words)

  • One chart, picture, diagram, graph, cartoon or picture perbook or per periodical issue

  • Two pages (max) from an illustrated work less than 2,500 words (like children's books)

  • Teachers may make multiple copies for classroom use.

United States Copyright Office


Circular 21

  • Copies may be made only from legally acquired originals

  • Only one copy allowed per student

  • Each copy includes full attribution in a form satisfactory to scholars in that field

  • Usage must be “at the instance and inspiration of a single teacher" and when the time frame doesn't allow enough time for asking permission 

  • Usage can't be directed by "higher authority" i.e. the District

  • No more than nine instances per class per term (current news publications such as newspapers can be used more often) 

  • Multiple copies from different works shall not be used to create anthologies that substitute the purchase of books, publisher reprints, or periodicals 

  • "Consumables" such as workbooks, lab manuals, test booklets, answer sheets can't be copied. 

  • Copies should not be made from the same work and used from semester to semester

  • Copies should not be made for different courses at the same or different institutions 

  • A chapter from a book

  • An article from a periodical

  • Short story, short essay, or short poem

  • Chart, graph, diagram, drawing , cartoon, picture from a book, periodical or newspaper

  • Instructors may make a single copy for teacher use for research or lesson preparation.

United States Copyright Office


Circular 21

  • Individual use only

  • Portions of a work

  • An entire work

  • A work if "the existing format in which a work is stored has become obsolete"

  • A librarian may make up to three copies "solely for the purpose of replacement of a copy...that is damaged, deteriorating, lost or stolen"

Section 108 Copyright Act (1976 ) as

amended by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

  • The library must first determine that after "reasonable investigation that copy...cannot be obtained at a fair price" or that the format is obsolete.

  • Copies must contain copyright information.

  • Archiving rights are designed to allow libraries to share with other libraries one- of-a-kind and out-of-print books.

Text for Use in Multimedia Projects

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • Same rights as "Printed Material" above

  • Teachers may incorporate into multimedia for teaching


Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia

  • Teachers may use it for two years, after that permission is required. 

Illustrations and Photographs

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • Photograph

  • Illustration

  • Collections of photographs

  • Collections of illustrations

  • Single works  may be used in their entirety but not more than 5 images by an artist or photographer.

  • From a collection, not more than 15 images or 10%, whichever is less.


  • Although older illustrations may be in the public domain and don’t need permission to be used, sometimes they’re part of a copyright collection. Copyright ownership information is available at or

Video For Viewing

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • DVDs

  • Laser Discs

  • Videotapes 

  • Teachers may use these materials in the classroom without restrictions of length, percentage, or multiple use

  • May be copied for archival purposes or to replace lost, damaged, or stolen copies.

Section 110 of the Copyright Act

  • The material must legitimately be acquired.

  • It must be used in a classroom or similar place "dedicated to face-to-face instruction" in a non-profit environment. 

  • It must be used for instructional purposes; not for entertainment or as a reward. 

  • If replacements are unavailable at a fair price or are available only in obsolete formats (e.g., betamax videos).

Multimedia Reproductions

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • Movies (all formats)

  • Film clips

  • Television shows

  • Multimedia Encyclopedias 

  • Video clips from the Internet

  • Music (all formats)Audio clips on the Web 

  • Images

  • Photographs

  • Up to 10 percent of the total or 3 minutes, whichever is less for movies, film clips, excerpts from television shows, etc.

  • Up to 10 percent of the work but no more than 30 seconds of the music or lyrics from an individual musical work 

  • No more than 5 images from one artist or photographer, and no more than 10% or 15, whichever is less, from a collection

Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia

  • Multimedia reproduction projects must have an educational purpose. 

  • The material must be legitimately acquired.

  • Proper attribution and credit must be given for all copyrighted works included in multimedia, including those that fall under fair use.

  • Instructors may make no more than two copies (including the original) of the instructional multimedia project containing materials used under fair use. 

  • An additional copy can be made only for preservation purposes.

  • The Fair Use of copyrighted materials in multimedia projects is permitted for only two years after the first instructional use of the project in class. Thereafter, the multimedia project may be used only after obtaining permission from the copyright holder.

Computer Software

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • Purchased software

  • Licensed software

  • Software may be lent by the library.

  • Software may be installed at home and at school (subject to license terms).

  • Software may be installed on multiple machines (subject to license terms).

  • Software can be distributed to users via a network (subject to license terms).

  • Librarians can make copies for archival use to replace lost, damaged, stolen, copies.

Section 107

and 108 of the Copyright Act and subsequent amendments.

  • Take aggressive actions to monitor that copying is not taking place (for retention).

  • Only one machine at a time may use the program.

  • The number of machines being used must never exceed the number licensed.

  • The number of simultaneous users must not exceed the number of licenses. A network license may be required for multiple users.

  • If unavailable at fair or is an obsolete format.

  • Scope of rights and limitations for particular software will depend on terms of applicable license agreements  


What You Can Do


The Fine Print


  • Internet connections

  • World Wide Web

  • Limited images may be downloaded for student projects 

  • Limited sound files may be downloaded for use in educational projects (see portion restrictions above)

Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia & DMCA

  • Resources from the web  may not be reposted onto the Internet without permission.

  • Links to legitimate resources can be posted

  • Any resources downloaded must be legitimately acquired by the website.


What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • Broadcast (e.g.,ABC,NBC, CBS, UPN, PBS, local television stations)

  • Recordings of broadcast

  • Live "off the air" broadcasts may be used for instruction.

  • Recordings of broadcasts may be used for instruction.


  • Schools are allowed to retain broadcasts for a minimum of 10 school days. 

  • Enlightened rights holders often allow for much more. For example, PBS series ReadingRainbow offers three year retention rights.  

Cable Television

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • CNN, MTV, HBO, etc. 

  • Recordings made from cable.

  • May be used with permission

  • May be used with permission. Many programs may be retained for years --depending on the program. See Cable in the Classroom.

Cable Systems (& assoc.)

  • The guidelines for television programs were defined by Congress before cable television was a factor. 

  • Cable programs are not covered by the same guidelines as broadcast television and have their own restrictions on use.

Film or Filmstrip

What You Can Do


The Fine Print

  • 16 millimeter films

  • Filmstrips

  • Instructor may duplicate a single copy of a small portion...for teaching purposes

The Copyright Policy and Guidelines for California's School Districts, California Department of Education

  • Films or filmstrips must be owned by the instructors

For common scenarios, please visit CSU Long Beach Libraries Research Guide