The use by educational institutions or for educational purposes is not a general exception from copyright obligation.

Even though numerous activities connected to teaching, scholarship, and research frequently qualify as fair uses, none of them do so by default.

Applying the four statutory criteria will help establish whether a certain behavior is covered by the fair use exception to the copyright law.

There are further copyright law exceptions in addition to fair use that may also apply to activities carried out by educational institutions.

For instance, there are some restricted exceptions to the copyright law that apply to specific uses of copyrighted information in “face-to-face” classroom settings.

This article discusses copyright exceptions for educational purposes and gives you a piece of valuable information.

Exploring Fair Use in India: Copyright and Education

The Copyright Act of 1957 in India serves as the regulatory framework for various intellectual property rights, including copyright.

Within this framework, the concept of fair use, referred to as fair dealing under the Act, allows the utilisation of copyrighted content under specific conditions, without the need for explicit permission or a license from the copyright holder.

Research, criticism, reviews, news reporting, and teaching are all clearly defined as fair dealing uses in the Act.

While recognising the value of education in society, fair use aims to promote the transmission of information.

Boundaries of Fair Use in Education

While fair use permits the use of copyrighted content for educational purposes, educators and institutions must be mindful of its limitations.

Let’s explore the 4 factors using an example:

Factor 1: Purpose and Character of Use

This factor assesses whether the use of copyrighted material is transformative or adds value in some way. If the use is for educational purposes, such as criticism, commentary, or teaching, it’s more likely to be considered fair use.

For instance, a teacher showing a short film clip in class to analyse its cinematic techniques for a film studies course would likely fall under fair use.

Factor 2: Nature of the Copyrighted Work

The nature of the work being used is another consideration. Works that are more factual or informational are more likely to be deemed fair use.

For example, using a historical document in a history lecture to provide context and analysis would likely be considered fair use.

Factor 3: Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used

The amount and importance of the portion of the copyrighted work used are evaluated. Using a small portion of the work, especially if it’s not the central or most crucial part, is more likely to be considered fair use.

For instance, quoting a few lines from a novel in a literary analysis class to discuss its themes would likely be fair use.

Factor 4: Effect on the Potential Market

This factor looks at whether the use of the copyrighted material would negatively impact the potential market for the original work.

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If the use would replace the need for the original work or diminish its value, it’s less likely to be fair use.

For example, if a textbook publisher reproduces an entire chapter from a book in a way that undermines the market for the original book, it might not be considered fair use.

Remember, the assessment of fair use involves balancing these factors.

Exceptions for Education and Teaching: Understanding Copyright in Educational Settings

Copyright law has specific exceptions that allow for the use of copyrighted material for teaching and learning purposes.

These exceptions play a crucial role in enabling educators and students to utilise various works without infringing on the rights of creators.

One of the most significant exceptions pertains to the use of copyrighted works for the sole purpose of illustration in instruction.

Under this fair dealing exception, teachers and students can use copyrighted materials to support teaching and learning without violating copyright laws.

The key criteria for this exception to apply include:

  1. Non-commercial use: The use of copyrighted material should not involve commercial gain.
  2. Proper acknowledgment: Whenever possible, credit should be given to the original author of the work.
  3. Fair use: The use of the material should be fair and reasonable.

Determining whether the use of copyrighted material is fair or not can be complex and is often decided by courts based on factors like the extent of material used and its potential impact on the copyright owner’s market.

For instance, displaying small portions of work on an interactive whiteboard for educational purposes is generally permitted, but actions that could impact the sales of teaching materials might require licensing.

For instance, teachers can project images of artworks by famous artists onto an interactive whiteboard for art history lessons.

However, directly photocopying works for distribution to students falls under a different educational exception, which is covered separately.

Importantly, this exception applies to various forms of teaching, not just within formal educational institutions.

Additionally, contractual agreements cannot override this exception, meaning that contract terms restricting its use are unenforceable.

Beyond this exception, educational establishments may also benefit from other exemptions that suspend certain copyright rules.

These exceptions collectively aim to strike a balance between educational needs and copyright protection, allowing educators and students to access and share knowledge responsibly.

Using Copyrighted Works in Educational Activities

An exception in copyright law allows the performance, playing, or showing of copyrighted literary, dramatic, or musical works within educational institutions.

This exception is applicable when the audience consists of teachers, students, and individuals directly associated with the institution. It also includes the display of films for this audience.

It should be noted that individuals who are not part of the educational institution, such as parents and friends, are not classified as directly affiliated with the establishment.

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Therefore, if the institution intends to involve parents or other external parties in the performance, playing, or showing of copyrighted works, permission from the copyright holder must be obtained beforehand.

This exception emphasises the significance of obtaining proper authorisation when expanding the audience beyond the immediate educational community.

Recording Broadcasts for Educational Use

When it comes to recording broadcasts for educational purposes, there are certain regulations to consider.

If you wish to record a broadcast and use the recording within an educational establishment, you typically need a license from the Educational Recording Agency (ERA).

However, if a specific broadcast is not covered by the ERA licensing scheme, copyright law provides an exception.

This exception allows educational institutions to record and play the broadcast without infringing copyright.

It even extends to playing the recording over secure networks for online instruction.

It’s important to note that this exception applies to non-commercial educational purposes and requires appropriate acknowledgment of the authorship of the content, whenever feasible.

Copying and Using Parts of Works for Teaching

If you’re an educational institution, there’s a special rule that lets you copy parts of certain types of works (excluding broadcasts and standalone art pieces) for teaching purposes.

This means a teacher can make copies of a portion of a work to share with their students.

However, just like the rule for recording and playing broadcasts, copying and using parts of works is only allowed if there’s no specific educational license available.

For instance, if a school wants to photocopy a section of a book for students, they need a license from the Copyright Licensing Agency.

This agency offers licenses for schools to copy from books, magazines, newspapers, and published sheet music.

When no relevant license is available, the educational institution can use this rule. But there are conditions: the copies must be for non-commercial use, they should credit the authorship (if possible), and no more than 5% of a work can be copied within a year.

You can also share these copies with students online, but only through a secure network that only staff and students can access.

It’s important to note that many educational institutions already have the necessary licenses mentioned earlier.

The combination of these licenses and copyright exceptions allows teachers and students to use copyrighted works for educational purposes without the need to seek permission each time.

Exception for Face-to-Face Instruction

Copyright law allows the use of legally licensed or purchased works in face-to-face classroom settings at nonprofit, accredited schools, solely for pedagogical purposes related to the course.

This encompasses activities like showing films, playing music, performing plays, projecting images, and other presentations of copyrighted content within the classroom.

The key requirement is that the work must have been acquired through lawful means.

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Fair Use in Different Countries

Just like India, countries such as Australia, the UK, and the US have copyright laws that explicitly allow educational institutions to engage in fair use of copyrighted materials without it being considered an infringement.

Fair use encompasses activities like reproducing copyrighted content, which might otherwise be deemed as infringement of copyright.

However, in countries like France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, there are no statutory provisions specifically addressing fair use.


Copyright exceptions play a crucial role in ensuring a balanced approach.

These exceptions allow for the utilisation of copyrighted content for instructional and informational purposes within academic institutions.

From copying material for classroom settings to digital access for online education, these exceptions facilitate non-commercial use while safeguarding the protection of copyright.

Whether it’s acknowledging the authorship of works, copying from books, or even the role of libraries in providing access, these exceptions acknowledge the significance of educational pursuits.

As technology transforms learning methods, these exceptions extend to training purposes as well.

By defining acceptable amounts of copyright material, content providers, educators, and learners are able to navigate the educational landscape harmoniously.

In this journey of knowledge dissemination, the principles of fair use, sufficient acknowledgement, and responsible copying coalesce to serve the higher purpose of education.


What are copyright exceptions for educational purposes?

Copyright exceptions for educational purposes are provisions within copyright law that permit the use of copyrighted materials for instructional and informational use within educational settings without the need for explicit permission or licensing.

Can educational institutions use copyrighted materials without any limitations?

No, there are limitations to ensure a balanced approach. Copies of copyrighted material must be made for non-commercial purposes, accompanied by proper authorship acknowledgment, and limited to specific percentages of the work.

Can copyrighted materials be used in online education?

Yes, copyrighted materials can be used in online education settings, but they must be accessible within a secure network restricted to staff and students.

Do these exceptions apply to both traditional and online classrooms?

Yes, these exceptions are designed to apply to both traditional classroom settings and online education platforms.

How do these exceptions impact copyright holders?

These exceptions strike a balance between educational access and copyright protection by permitting limited use for educational purposes while still acknowledging the rights of copyright holders.

Are educational licensing schemes necessary for these exceptions?

Educational licensing schemes often cover the same uses as these exceptions. Many educational institutions hold relevant licenses that align with these exceptions.