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Congress penned the fair use exception with educational environments in mind. We'll talk more about that (below). Legislators saw fit to extend further protections that exclusively apply to classroom environments. The US Code contains specific exceptions for educators to use performances and displays of copyrighted work in section 110 of the Copyright Act. Understandably, busy teachers don't like being put in the position of interpreting broad or complex legal principles. While I can't make these determinations for you, I'm happy to talk more about your specific needs.
In section 107, Congress notes that "multiple copies for classroom use" do fall under fair use. But educators still wonder how much of a work they can copy, and under what circumstances. Circular 21 from the US Copyright Office offers specific classroom copying guidelines. These focus on brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect (pp. 6-7). The circular recommends specific word limits for different formats Teachers are instructed to ask for permission if time permits. They're directed not to copy more than one work from one author each term, or use the same work from term to term. Keep in mind this document is a conservative interpretation of fair use that publishers have agreed to. Fair use may allow you to use more.
Case law is complicated on this question. Several fair use cases dealt with coursepacks produced by commercial copy shops, which doesn't shed much light on educators creating their own coursepacks. In a recent high-profile case, publishers sued Georgia State University for a fair use policy that allegedly encouraged faculty to infringe copyright. While the results were mixed, the court found that only 5 of the 99 excerpts brought forward violated copyright. Interestingly, the Eleventh Circuit Court, the last to speak on the case, rejected formulaic approaches to fair use, like those found in Circular 21, instead promoting case-by-case analysis.
Section 110 of the Copyright Act deals with performances and displays of non-textual works in the classroom (copies of text are mentioned in the fair use section). In the face-to-face classroom environment, there is no limit on the length of a performance or display--as long as it is pedagogically relevant. This means you can screen an entire movie in class. Section 110(2) deals with digital displays, and in 2002 was revised with the TEACH Act. Unlike face-to-face classrooms, you can not screen entire movies (without permission) in digital displays. The technology requirements for TEACH Act compliance are also quite complex. But it does give online instructors the ability to at least display shorter works and sections of work in the online classroom.
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