Copyright Laws

Copyright Laws


All types of creative works, such as:  printed material, music, videos/motion pictures/DVDs, illustrations, and photographs are protected by copyright.


Copyright law protects the works of authors, artists, composers, and others.  Once a work has been written, it is immediately protected by copyright.  This includes web pages on the Internet.  All material used from the Internet can only be used with permission, and it must be properly cited.  A photograph copied from the internet onto the school web page must be in the public domain, and this must be specifically stated.  If you want to use a photo not in the public domain, you must seek permission from the designer of the web page.

Under the Doctrine of Fair Use, teachers are allowed limited use of copyrighted material.  These materials must only be used for educational and research purposes.  The following amounts are permitted:

  • Single copies of materials for class
  • Motion media:  3 minutes or 10%, whichever is less
  • Music:  lyrics up to 10% but no more than 30 seconds of an individual work
  • Illustrations or photographs:  not more than 5 images from one artist or more than 15 images, whichever is less, from a collection


Multiple copies must meet the requirements of:

  • Brevity:  10% or up to 1000 words, whichever is less
  • Poetry:  work of less than 250 words and printed on two pages, may be copied in its entirety; for larger works only 250 words may be copied
  • Picture books:  two pages, or not more than 10%
  • Spontaneity:  Teacher must initiate the making of multiple copies.
  • Cumulative Effect:  Copy for one class only.  Copies cannot be used to replace textbooks or anthologies. 



Videos:  There are two definitions regarding the use of videos. (1) Acceptable is face-to-face teaching in an educational setting.  “Face-to-face” instruction means that the students and the instructor are in the same room and the work being shown is directly related to the curriculum, not related to some future lesson or some previously-taught lesson.  (2) Unacceptable is showing a video as a reward without securing performance rights; copying a video from a broadcast cable network.



Graphics:   It is unacceptable to copy or enlarge any of the following for use as a display of any kind: 


  • Book jackets
  • Cartoon characters
  • Logos


Additional questions can be answered at one of these copyright websites:

  • Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.  On-line permission to use copyrighted materials.


  • Copyright and Fair Use:  Stanford University Libraries provides a multitude of copyright topics suitable for the elementary, middle and high school students. 


  • United States Patent and Trademark Office:   Accurate answers on questions of copyright.


  • Carol Simpson, Ed.D., J.D.  Author, consultant, editor on issues of ethics, copyright, and school library management.