When developing learning materials, it is important to understand at least the basics of copyright law.
Although it varies from country to country, in the United States, copyright of printed matter is governed
by Title 17 of the United States Code. Of particular importance to learning developers is fair use, noted in
section 107, excerpts below.
Title 17 of the United States Code, § 107
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted
work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that
section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for
classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use
made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for
nonprofit educational purposes;
the nature of the copyrighted work;
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon
consideration of all the above factors.
According to the Association for Training and Development (ATD), The notion of fair use gives professionals
some scope in what they can include in educational materials, but because penalties are often assessed on
the basis of the number of copies made of the material, this is one area where it is better to err on the side of
asking permission rather than seeking forgiveness, because forgiveness can be very expensive