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Copying for Teaching Purposes: Copying for Teaching Purposes

Copying for Teaching Purposes

There is a common misconception that "fair use" allows unlimited copying for teaching purposes. There are strict prohibitions against copying without permission in the following instances:

  •  copying that is used to create, replace or substitute for anthologies, collective works, etc.
  • copying that substitutes for purchase of books, publishers' reprints or periodicals
  • copying that is repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term
  • copying that is directed by higher authority; and
  • copying of "consumables" such as workbooks, standardized tests, test booklets, answer sheets etc.

The following are the published guidelines on "fair use" copying for teaching purposes. Guidelines are specified for both single and multiple copies. (CONTU Guidelines).

Single Copy
A single copy of the following may be copied if requested by teacher for his or her own research or for teaching:

    a) chapter of book

    b) article from periodical or newspaper

    c) short story, short essay, or short poem, whether or not from collected work

    d) chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from book or periodical or newspaper

 Multiple Copies
Multiple copies for classroom use:

     a) cannot exceed 1 per pupil in course;

    b) must be made by or for teacher giving the course;

    c) must include a copyright notice on each copy;

    d) and must meet all of the following provisions or brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect.



  • Poetry: You may copy a complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than 2 pages or, if a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
  • Prose: You may copy a complete story, article, or essay if it is less than 2500 words; if work is 2500 words or more, then you may copy an excerpt of not more than 1000 words or 10% or work, whichever is less, but in any event, a minimum of 500 words may be reproduced. But if the entire work is less than 2500 words, then it cannot be reproduced in its entirety; you may copy an excerpt of 2 pages if they contain not more than 10% of the words found in the text.
  • Illustration: You may copy 1 chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue.


  • The copying must be at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher (not higher authority), and
  • The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.

      3.Cumulative Effect

  • The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
  • Not more than 1 short poem, article, story, essay or 2 excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than 3 excerpts from the same collective work or periodical volume during 1 class term. (Does not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers)
  • There cannot be more than 9 instances of such multiple copying for 1 course during 1 class term. (Does not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers)


Updated September 1, 2001

Fair Use Resources

Copyright for Music Educators PowerPoint