Basic rules to keep in mind

Rule 1: Are You Creating Something New or Just Copying?
The purpose and character of your intended use of the material involved is the single most important factor in determining whether a use is a fair use. The question to ask here is whether you are merely copying someone else's work verbatim or instead using it to help create something new.

Rule 2: Are Your Competing With the Source You're Copying From?
Without consent, you ordinarily cannot use another person's protected expression in a way that impairs (or even potentially impairs) the market for his or her work.


Rule 3: Giving the Author Credit Doesn't Let You Off the Hook
Some people mistakenly believe that they can use any material as long as they properly give the author credit. Not true. Giving credit and fair use are completely separate concepts. Either you have the right to use another author's material under the fair use rule or you don't. The fact that you attribute the material to the other author doesn't change that.

Rule 4: The More You Take, the Less Fair Your Use Is Likely to Be

The more material you take, the less likely it is that your use will be a fair use. As a general rule, never: quote more than a few successive paragraphs from a book or article, take more than one chart or diagram, include an illustration or other artwork in a book or newsletter without the artist's permission, or quote more than one or two lines from a poem.

Rule 5: The Quality of the Material Used Is as Important as the Quantity
The more important the material is to the original work, the less likely your use of it will be considered a fair use.

Copyright Act

The Copyright Act gives five exclusive rights to the creators of a work:
What this means for you (and your students) is that generally no one else has the right to do any of these things. But wait… what about when you show educational films to your class? Or when you distribute photocopies from books? Or when you use clip-art on a Powerpoint slide?

Luckily, the Copyright Act contains a special exception for the educational use of copyrighted materials. This is part of the "fair use" rule, and it allows someone other than the copyright holder to make limited use of a copyrighted work without permission for purposes such as teaching, research, scholarship, criticism, parody and news reporting. However, it is very important for teachers to understand just how this exception works, and how much "limited use" they can get away with. The next article in this series about copyright law for teachers will examine "fair use" more closely.