class sets

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  • Can teachers makes class sets (e.g., 36 copies) of newspaper or magazine articles that they find on the open web (e.g., New York Times article in it's entirety) for their students to read? Can they do this in a planned, & regular sort-of-way? For example, every week they plan to find an online article that they copy for the class (would be likely from different magazines or newspaper each week).
  • Hi, Carrie.

    I can't really answer any of your questions, as my knowledge of Fair Use in the classroom is pretty much nonexistent.  But I can recommend Kenneth Crews' Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators as well as Carrie Russell's Complete Copyright: an Everyday Guide for Librarians.  Or you might take a look at the Fair Use Checklist here:

  • If the work is made freely and legally available online the teacher could provide students with a link to the work and let them choose to read it online or print-off a copy to use. The great thing about doing this (besides saving trees) is that you don't have to worry about claims of copyright infringment when linking to works that are made freely and legally accessible online by the rightsholder!


    If the teacher feels strongly about making copies of the articles to distribute to students they can consider applying fair use to the situation (17 United States Code, Section 107). Educators can use ALA's Fair Use Evaluator to learn more about fair use and how it can be applied in educational settings. In the situation described above the teacher would need to consider the application of fair use each week. Fair use needs to be applied on a case-by-case basis and blanket applications of the law should be avoided.

  • I would urge applying fair use in exactly this situation.

    Section 107 describes fair use in this way:

    The law then lays out the four factors which should be weighed when making a fair use determination. But, given that the section above clearly calls out "multiple copies for classroom use," providing a paper copy of one article per week for the students in your class is one of the few situations that the law clearly states is OK.  

    Linking to the article, as suggested by another person above, is certainly a risk-free way of providing access to content - assuming the newspaper does not have a paywall that can stymie access for some students.  And saving trees is a good thing!  But this is one of the few fair use questions that is pretty unambiguous; the use you describe is covered.

    Martin J. Brennan, MLS

    Copyright and Licensing Librarian

    Scholarly Communication and Licensing

    33458 Charles E. Young Research Library

    University of California, Los Angeles

    Box 951575, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575

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