You may be breaking copyright...
- if you believe you may copy whatever you want because it is for educational purposes.
Although the copyright guidelines applied to education are more liberal than other applications, copyright still has its limits.
- if you believe that the same rules that apply to you as an individual apply to what you may do with your entire class.
The guidelines for how much of an item (book, article, poem) may be copied are different for a single copy for an individual versus multiple copies for a classroom. For example, a single copy for a teacher may be made of a chapter from a book, an article from a periodical, a short story, a short essay, or a short poem (House Report No. 94-1476). Multiple copies for classroom use are more complicated. For prose, classroom copying is limited to either (1) a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or (2) an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10 percent of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words (House Report No. 94-1476).
- if you assume that the absence of a copyright notice means that the item is public domain.
Since the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1998, items automatically receive copyrighted status as soon as they are created, regardless of whether they contain any notice of copyright.
- if you believe you have met all legal requirements by giving credit to the author whose works you have copied.
Giving credit to the author whose works you have copied protects you from plagiarism. Plagiarism is claiming someone else's works as your own. However, you still may not have the legal right to copy or use the author's works. Copyright and plagiarism are two separate issues.
- if you use the same copied materials for more than one semester -- regardless of whether handed out in paper or whether posted electronically.
Spontaneity is one of the considerations for making multiple copies for classroom use. If you use the same material for more than one semester, it is assumed you have had sufficient time in which to ask for copyright permission. "Copying shall not be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term" (House Report No. 94-1776).
- if you have created an anthology (paper or electronic) to be used in your class instead of a textbook.
"Copying shall not be used to create or to replace or to substitute for anthologies, compilations, or collective works" (House Report No. 94-1776).
- if you place copied materials on the Internet without passwording them or otherwise restricting their access to just your class.
If you place an item on the Internet where everyone may access it, you lose the extra leeway provided for education for you have made the item available outside of the educational arena.
- if you copy text or images from someone's webpage and place it on your own webpage.
When a person creates a webpage, that webpage is automatically copyrighted (Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1998). You cannot copy whatever you want to on the web. In order to be legal, your use of the materials must meet the requirements of Fair Use.
- if you make a video copy of a television program to show in your class.
Broadcast television (e.g., ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS) may be taped for later class viewing. The tapes may be retained for a maximum of 45 days (unless special permission is granted). Cable television programs, however, may be used only with permission.
- if you make a copy of a video so that you can show it whenever you desire without having to track down the video itself.
Copies of entire videos may be made only in order to replace lost, damaged, or stolen copies -- and even then, usually only if a replacement copy is unavailable at a fair price.
Notice: This paper is titled "You may be breaking copyright...". It is not titled "You are breaking copyright." Copyright is a very complex issue with various provisions and exceptions. The above items are listed as examples to get people to consider whether their activities are indeed legal.