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Copyright Essentials

An introduction to copyright issues for the NMSU community. This guide does NOT supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.

Copyright in the Face-to-Face Classroom

What copies may be made for teaching purposes?

According to the Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying (, single print copies of the following may be made for scholarly research or used in teaching or preparing to teach a class. Please note that these are minimum guidelines and that copyright law does not specify amounts that constitute fair use. What follows are guidelines only:

  • A chapter from a book.
  • An article from a periodical or newspaper
  • A short story, short essay, or short poem
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper

Multiple print copies (not to exceed in any event more than one copy per student in a course) may be made if:

  • the copying meets the tests of brevity and spontaneity (addresses the amount and plan of use)
  • the copying meets the cumulative effect text (addresses frequency of use)
  • each copy includes a notice of copyright

provided that overall:

  • the copying does not replace or substitute anthologies, compilations, or collective works
  • the works copied are not “consumables” such as workbooks, guides, or test booklets
  • the copying does not substitute for the purchase of the original; is not directed by a higher authority; is not used repeatedly by the same instructor for the same course; and no charge beyond the actual cost of the copying is passed on to the student.

We recommend that you conduct a fair use analysis each time you plan to use a copyrighted work, and retain records of your analysis.

What about playing music or videos in my class?

Section 110 of U.S. Copyright law clearly permits the use of lawfully obtained music and/or video in face-to-face classroom settings (typically referred to as performances or displays).  The fair use case can also be made for changes to materials undertaken for purposes of commentary, criticism, or parody. We recommend that you conduct a fair use analysis each time you plan to use a copyrighted work and retain records of your analysis. A fair use case is generally eroded in cases where use is repeated.

Educators may also record a program at home and show these segments in class in keeping with Kastenmeier guidelines (see Please be aware that broadcasts, including the news, are generally protected by copyright. Some public broadcasting programs offer educators more extensive terms of use.

Please be aware that these exemptions for playing music and video in a clasroom are unique to this teaching setting. If a performance (screening a film, playing music) is not a part of a class activity, but is part of a film series, concert series, etc. it is generally considered to be a public performance. In these cases, one generally needs to secure public performance rights. See the Seeking Permission tab for more information.

Additional Resources