Guidelines for Specific Media

Printed Materials

Printed materials include text from books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, newsletters, web sites, journals, personal letters, speeches and interviews. When adapting works from text - as from all sources - it is important not only to comply with the copyright laws, but also to adhere to MCCCD's plagiarism policy.

After debating the scope of fair use for educational institutions, Congress included guidelines for the copying of printed materials in the legislative history of the Copyright Act. These guidelines represent the minimum boundaries of fair use. Uses outside of these guidelines may qualify as fair use.

Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-For-Profit Educational Institutions with Respect to Books and Periodicals

  1. Single Copying for Teachers

    A single copy may be made of any of the following by or for a teacher at his or her individual request 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;
  2. 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 teacher giving the course for classroom use or discussion; provided that:
    • The copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity as defined below; and, 
    • Meets the cumulative effect test as defined below; and, 
    • Each copy includes a notice of copyright



  1. Poetry: (a) A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or, (b) from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words. 
  2. Prose: (a) Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or (b) 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. [Each of the numerical limits stated in "i" and "ii" above may be expanded to permit the completion of an unfinished line of a poem or of an unfinished prose paragraph.] 
  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 which are intended sometimes for children and at other times for a more general audience fall short of 2,500 works in their entirety. Paragraph "ii" above notwithstanding such "special works" may not be reproduced in their entirety; however, an excerpt comprising not more than two of the published pages of such special work and containing not more than 10% of the works found in the text thereof, may be reproduced.


  1. The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher. 
  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 copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made. 
  2. Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay or two excerpts may be copied from the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term. 
  3. There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term. [The limitations stated in "ii" and "iii" above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals.]

Prohibitions as to I and II Above

Notwithstanding any of the above, the following shall be prohibited:

  1. Copying shall not be used to create or to replace or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works. Such replacement or substitution may occur whether copies of various works or excerpts therefrom are accumulated or reproduced and used separately. 
  2. There shall be no copying of or from works intended to be "consumable" in the course of study or of teaching. These include workbooks, exercises, standardized tests and test booklets and answer sheets and like consumable material.
  3. Copying shall not:
    • substitute for the purchase of books, publishers' reprints or periodicals; 
    • be directed by higher authority; 
    • be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
  4. No charge shall be made to the student beyond the actual cost of the photocopying.

Course Packets

The use of course packets can be a cost-effective means of providing students with concise, current educational materials and excerpts when it is not necessary for students to read an entire work. Courts, however, have confirmed that reproducing copyrighted materials into course packets generally exceeds the scope of fair use. If you are creating a course packet, you must either verify the work you seek to copy is not protected by copyright or seek permission to use the work within the packet. Be prepared to pay a fee or royalties for using the work. The permissions process can take time, so it is generally advised that you prepare ahead and start early. Often the copy center preparing the course packet can assist you with the permissions process.


Books almost always contain copyrightable materials, including text, photographs and illustrations. The selection and organization of public domain materials into a collective work may also be separately copyrightable. These works can be individually written, co-authored or written by institutional or corporate entities. An anthology may have one editor, but contain several shorter independently copyrighted works within it. It is also important to remember that the portion of the book you want to use may itself have been copied by the books' author(s) with or without permission. If so, you will need to seek out the original source of the material to secure permission for your intended use. If you are trying to find the copyright owner through the publisher, be aware that the same work may have more than one publisher depending upon the format of the work - hard back, paper back, North American rights, foreign language/country rights, reprints in digests or anthologies, etc. Electronic books - or e-books as they are known - typically originate in print form and are copyrightable. In any event, the copyrights for electronic books are treated no differently than printed books. Never store an e-book or similar electronic text on a website or other computer format accessible to others.


Newspapers, magazines, journals and other periodicals contain a multitude of copyrightable material - only some of which may be controlled by the publisher of the periodical. Freelance writers and photographers who contribute their works to the periodical may retain the copyrights in their works. Other works are written by employees and are works for hire owned by their employer. National syndicates may control some columns and cartoons that appear in various periodicals across the country (e.g. Dear Abby).

Because the periodical's general copyright notice covers all the works within the periodical, individual copyright notices may not appear on these individual works, even if they are independently owned and controlled. If the copyright status of the work is not obvious from the article or work itself, the publisher of the periodical may have more information about its status or who to contact for more information.


Advertisements are generally owned by the advertiser, though it is becoming more common for an advertising agency to retain copyrights in its ad campaigns. Remember, even companies that go out of business often sell their assets, including their intellectual property rights. If you are interested in using an older advertisement, do not assume that you do not have to clear the rights solely because the company is no longer in business. Use of a company's trademarks may also require clearance and permission.

Graphs, Charts and Lists

Copyright law does not protect facts. Lists of facts, databases of pure fact and compilations of facts can be protected by copyright, though, in how they are uniquely selected, expressed and organized. Wholesale copying of lists of facts is almost definitely an infringement. If you feel certain you are using only facts and have separated them from their unique organization and expression, permission should not be required. Graphs, charts and illustrations used to supplement or enhance factual information have a higher level of originality and copyrightability and do not constitute facts. Thus, you must separately analyze whether you need permission to use such materials under general copyright law and fair use principles.


Remember, the copyrights within a work are separable from the work itself. Generally, the writer of a letter owns the copyrights within the letter, but the person to whom the letter was written owns the physical letter itself. When using works such as private letters and diaries, there is a good chance the works are unpublished. This means that even if the works are quite old, the copyrights may still exist and you need to seek permission. Private letters also raise concerns about invasion of privacy. If the letters are of a particularly intimate nature, you could be liable for making such information public.

Interviews and Speeches

Oral works such as interviews and speeches also require special consideration. Copyright laws do not protect works until they have been fixed in a tangible medium. Fixation (e.g. recording, writing down) must occur with the author's permission. Truly impromptu speeches that are not written down or recorded are not "fixed" and thus are not protected by copyright. Speeches that have been recorded with permission may require you to clear rights both with the author of the speech and with the person or entity that recorded the speech. If you purchase a copy or transcript of a television broadcast, be sure to read and follow any limitations of use that accompany the transcript.

As for interviews, the person being interviewed may claim copyrights in the interview. The conductor of the interview may also claim copyrights in the interview, perhaps in the questions asked which elicited a particular response from the interviewee, so you may need permission from both people, depending upon what portions of the interview you use. Remember, merely crediting the original source will not alleviate infringement if what you really need is permission to use the work.

Page Updated 05/20/14