Copyright Tools

Tools to help you decide whether you are breaking copyright laws.

Stanford Charts and Tools

Still in public domain?

Fair Use Checklist

Student teaching resource

Library of Congress teaching resource for students

Copyright basics for students

For teachers to teach copyright

Teacher resource

A Fair(y) Use Tale

 Copyright and Fair Use for Educators

Copyright provides legal protection for original creative works, including, but not limited to, poetry, movies, video games, videos, plays, paintings, sheet music, recorded music performances, novels, software code, photographs, and images. Copyright holders, and those they authorize, have several rights afforded them, including: 

  • Public display or performance of work 
  • Reproduce the entire work or parts of it 
  • Distribute copies of the work 
  • Derive works, such as translations or dramatizations.

Copyright protection has limitations and exceptions. Fair Use allows copyrighted material to be used under certain guidelines, without the copyright holder’s permission, for purposes such as news reporting, teaching, research, criticism, and parody. Fair Use consideration includes four factors: 

  • Purpose and character of use. 
  • Amount of work to be used. 
  • Nature of the work. 
  • Effect of any use on the market for the work.

Keep in mind that education purposes do not guarantee permission to copy or distribute work. Many cases may be permissible, but it is important to evaluate each use individually. There are several resources that you can consider, including me!

Remember as long as the material to be copied is in the public domain, you can copy for one class or many and for one or more semesters. If you wish to use material that is NOT in the public domain, and for which copyright protection exists, then your copying is more likely to be considered fair if it is spontaneous (“Gee, I saw this last night at home on my computer and it would be great for tomorrow’s class!”). The more sections and the more semesters you plan to copy particular materials for, the less likely your use is to be considered fair. If you want to use copyrighted material repeatedly, you should obtain permission from the copyrighted owner.

  • Lesson will be used by different teachers teaching the same class. Fair?  Again, the more copying that occurs, the less likely the use is to be fair. The less spontaneous the copying is, the less fair. If you are making digital copies or copies that will be available online, it will be less likely to be fair than if you made paper copies, given the potential impact on the copyright owner’s market. 
  • Lesson will be used year after year by the same teacher at the same point in the plan of studies for the course is thus less likely to be fair; seriously think about seeking permission. Document your efforts.  Copyright owners may be willing to give permission for your use without charge. Once you find an owner, let them know your specific intention and always credit sources.
  • Students in a project-based lesson prepare presentations with multiple examples of their topic.  The medium in which the student presents the examples contributes to the fairness of the use. (It is NOT fair to display the material on a WWW site.) And always explain that proper credit is always an indication of good research!