Copyright Laws

Copyright Law Guidelines

When copying materials from books, journals, and other publications, AHAS Centers will abide by federal copyright laws. Instructors, colleges, universities, copy shops and their employees that illegally reproduce copyrighted materials can be held responsible for copyright infringement, a federal crime. For this reason, all materials reproduced by AHAS must meet the "Fair Use" guidelines laid down by the federal government. AHAS is not able to obtain copyright permissions under any circumstance

Published works enter the public domain 95 years after the death of the author UNLESS ownership rights have been transferred to another person, corporation, or estate who renews the copyright ownership with the federal government. Therefore it is best to assume that ALL published work are still protected under copyright law. A work's being "out of print" does not mean that it has entered the public domain.

Fair Use

The guidelines collectively known as "Fair Use" establish the types of teaching, research, and classroom use copying that are lawful without first obtaining permission from the copyright owner. Each copy made under fair use requires a notice of copyright.

A single copy is permitted of the following:

  • Chapter from a book;
  • Article from a periodical or newspaper;
  • Short story, short essay, or short poem;
  • Map, chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

Multiple copies are permitted (up to the number of students in a class) if and only if the copying meets all of the following three tests: brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect.

Brevity Guidelines:

  • Poetry: Complete poem of less than 250 words; excerpt of not more than 250 words;
  • Prose: Complete article, story, or essay of fewer than 2,500 words; excerpt of not more than 10 percent from longer works;
  • Illustration: One map, chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue;
  • Map, chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

Spontaneity Guidelines:

  • The decision to use the work is at the inspiration of the individual teacher AND;
  • The time between the decision to use the work and the most effective use of the work in the classroom must be so close that obtaining copyright permissions would not be feasible.

Cumulative Effect Guidelines:

  • The copying is only for one course and will be used for just one class term;
  • Not more than one short poem, article, story or essay may be copied from the same author;
  • Not more than two excerpts may be copied from the same author;
  • Not more than three poems, articles, stories, essays, or excerpts from the same collective work or periodical volume;
  • Multiple copying is limited to nine instances per class during one term.

Copies are never permitted without first obtaining copyright:

  • An entire book, collective work, journal, or periodical volume, regardless of its print status;
  • Workbooks, tests, and answer sheets;
  • When planning in advance to distribute a number of different works in a course pack or course reader.  If you need assistance printing a course pack, please consult with your Department Administrator.

For more information on copyright laws, please contact the Harvard University Office of the General Counsel, or you may visit the US Copyright Office website to answer any questions regarding Harvard's copyright policies.