Technology is Changing What's "Fair Use" in Teaching

Linda Howe-Steiger, Brian C. Donohue


The Doctrine of Fair Use was established by the courts to exempt certain activities such as teaching and research from the legal requirements of the copyright law. Before the 1976 Revision of the Copyright Act, only two cases were brought against teachers for copyright infringements. In both cases the teachers lost because their extensive copying was found to impact the copyright owner's market for legally published copies. Although the 1976 Act explicitly recognizes the existence of potentially Fair Uses, the act makes application of the principle highly situational. Classroom Guidelines attached to the Act make application even more murky and constrained. After 1976 photocopy technology and the advent of the coursepack began a trend towards circumscribing situations in which Fair Use may be applied. Potential impact on a new, lucrative market for sale of rights to copy portions of books and journals appears to dominate contemporary case law. Desktop publishing and Internet and web-based teaching, the authors believe, will further erode traditional applications of Fair Use for educational purposes. They argue that instructors and researchers should assume that there is no Fair Use on the Internet. Guidelines are provided for faculty and others considering dissemination of potentially copyrighted materials to students via digital technologies.


Computer Uses in Education; Copyrights; Fair Use (Copyrights); Internet; Reprography; Teaching Methods; Technological Advancement; Technology

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Copyright (c) 2019 Linda Howe-Steiger, Brian C. Donohue


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