Guidelines Relating To Classroom Copying For Non-Profit Educational Use

The following excerpt from the legislative history of the 1976 Copyright Act establishes Congressionally endorsed guidelines relating to classroom copying for educational use:

“Agreement On Guidelines For Classroom Copying In Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions With Respect To Books And Periodicals.

The purpose of the following guidelines is to state the minimum standards for educational fair use under Section 107 of HR 2223. The parties agree that the conditions determining the extent of permissible copying for educational purposes may change in the future; that certain types of copying permitted under these guidelines may not be permissible in the future; and conversely that in the future other types of copying not permitted under these guidelines may be permissible under revised guidelines.

Moreover, the following statement of guidelines is not intended to limit the types of copying permitted under the standards of fair use under judicial decision and which are stated in Section 107 of the Copyright Revision Bill. There may be instances in which copying which does not fall within the guidelines stated below may nonetheless be permitted under the criteria of fair use.”


Adapted for Seattle University from the U.S. Copyright Office: Information Circulars and Fact Sheets: Circular 21: Reproductions of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (Circular 21).

Single Copying For Classroom Use

A single copy may be made of any of the following by or for a professor for his or her scholarly research or use in teaching or preparation to teach a class:

  • A chapter from a book
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper
  • A short story, short essay or short poem, whether or not from a collective work
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

Multiple Copies For Classroom Use

Multiple copies (not to exceed in any event more than one copy per pupil in a course) may be made by or for the professor giving the course for classroom use if:

  • the copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity, and
  • the copying meets the cumulative effect test, and
  • each copy includes a notice of copyright


  1. Poetry — a complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages; or an excerpt of not more than 250 words from a longer poem.
  2. Prose — either a complete article, story, or essay of less than 2,500 words, or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words. In both cases, the numerical limits may be expanded to complete an unfinished line of a poem or an unfinished paragraph of prose.
  3. Illustration — One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture per book or per periodical issue.
  4. “Special works” — Certain works in poetry, prose, or in "poetic prose" (which often combine language with illustrations and are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience) fall short of 2,500 words in their entirety. Guidelines 1. and 2. above do not apply to these “special works” and they cannot may not be reproduced in their entirety. An excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of the special work and containing not more than 10% of the words found in the text may be reproduced.


  1. The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual professor; and
  2. 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.

Cumulative Effect

  1. The copies of the material are for only one course in the college, school, or program initiating the request for copies.
  2. During one class term, the aggregate material copied is not more than one short poem, article, story, or essay, or two excerpts from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume.
  3. For any single course during one academic term, there cannot be more than nine instances of such multiple copying. (Note: the brevity limitations for prose and illustrations do not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.)

General Prohibitions under the Classroom Guidelines

Even if your copying may satisfy the guidelines outlined above, the following is prohibited:

  1. You cannot use copying to create, or to replace or substitute for, anthologies, compilations, or collective works. Replacement or substitution may occur even if you accumulate your copies and use them spaced out in time over the class term.
  2. You cannot copy all of parts of works intended to be "consumable" in the course of study or teaching. This category includes workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets, and answer sheets.
  3. Copying cannot (i) substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints, or periodicals; (ii) be directed by higher authority; or (iii) be repeated for the same item by the same professor from term to term.
  4. If you are making copies yourself and providing them to students (rather than having the Reprographic Department make the copies), you cannot charge students more than the actual cost of the photocopying.