Safe Harbor Rules

Because application of the fair use doctrine does not always yield a clear answer, educational organizations and copyright owners negotiated a set of guidelines to provide some certainty as to what constitutes fair use. Negotiators agreed upon and finalized the first three categories of guidelines on the right (Classroom Copying, Educational Use of Music, and Off-Air Recording of Broadcast Programming for Educational Purposes); these guidelines are part of the legislative history accompanying the Copyright Act of 1976. Read the about the guidelines by following the links on the right.

As part of an attempt to introduce rules for the fair use of electronic materials, industry representatives developed, but did not ultimately agree upon, the remaining three categories of guidelines which are listed on the right (Digital Images, Educational Multimedia, and Electronic Reserve Systems). These latter guidelines are not as persuasive as the first three regarding what constitutes fair use. Nevertheless, all six sets of guidelines probably represent the minimum limits of fair use and are intended in this policy to describe a “safe harbor” for users, not to define all possible practices of fair use. It is thus possible that a use may exceed these guidelines, yet still constitute fair use under the Copyright Act.