Do you have a question on copyright and fair use guidelines for teachers? Contact me, and I will do my best to post an answer on this page. Remember, I am an educator, not an attorney!

Am I allowed to make copies of activities from the magazine, "The Mathematics Teacher?"

It depends. Copying policies vary from magazine to magazine, although some educational magazines do include activities specifically for use with students.  Check the policy of the individual magazine.

Is it OK to take a documentary television show at home to bring to school to show to a class?

Yes. The U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. that homeowners may record complete television shows for noncommercial use. The tapes may be used for instruction, and schools may retain copies of the tape for a minimum of 10 school days.

May I legally copy any portion of a textbook or a trade book for instructional purposes?

Yes. The fair use doctrine permits limited copying for instructional purposes. Teachers may make one copy of a chapter from a text or copy one article from a newspaper or a magazine.  The courts also allow "spur-of-the-moment" copying, when effective instruction does not allow time to ask permission of the copyright holder. Also, teachers may make multiple copies of excerpts of texts, but only from legally acquired originals, when the intent is not to prevent students from purchasing the book.  Consumables, such as workbooks, may not be copied.

If a workbook, text, etc. is out of print or very dated, can pages be copied for use?

The fair use doctrine allows copying of out-of-print materials.  To determine if dated materials can be legally copied, check the table at This table shows by date of publication when works pass into the public domain and are no longer protected by copyright law.

Is it okay for students to download animations and clipart off the Internet for use in class without documenting where they came from?

Images may be downloaded for student use but may not be reposted on the Web without permission. However, students should be taught to ask for permission when using the work of others. Click here for a permission template. Also, students must learn the proper way to document their sources.

Is it okay to rent a commercial video and show it to my class?

Yes, a commercial video may be shown in the classroom for educational purposes only, but not for reward or entertainment.

Is it OK to copy pictures from the Internet to use in presentations?

Yes, as long as the presentation is for educational use and will not be sold commercially. It is always safer to get permission from the copyright owner if at all possible. Also, check the web site from where you copy the pictures for restrictions on use.  Under the Fair Use Guidelines for Multimedia, you should avoid using more than five images by the same artist or photographer.

When is it okay to load programs you use at home on your school computer?

You may load software that you purchased for home use (and installed on your home computer) on a school computer for limited personal use or student use only when the licensing agreement for that particular software specifies that you may do so.  Read the licensing agreement carefully. Only one machine at a time may use a program for which a single license has been purchased.

Am I violating copyright laws if I make copies of a workbook page?

Yes.  Fair use laws do not allow copying of consumables such as workbooks for educational purposes if the intent is to avoid purchasing sufficient copies of the materials.

Is there anything illegal about downloading a movie from the Internet to use in my class?

Maybe.  Educators may use commercial movies in their classrooms for educational purposes as long as they are legally purchased or rented.  Obtaining an illegal copy of a copyrighted movie from the Internet would not fall under fair use guidelines.

Last updated 02/17/2006 .