Column Editor: Laura N. Gasaway (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; Phone: 919-962-2295; Fax: 919-962-1193),

QUESTION:  What criteria are used to determine whether an organization is a nonprofit educational institution as part of the fair use exception?  Does a not-for-profit community based teaching hospital meet the criteria?

ANSWER:  The Copyright Act contains no criteria for determining what constitutes a nonprofit educational institution, but the common understanding among most lawyers is that the status is determined by how the institution is organized under the U.S. tax code.  The institution described is a hospital and not a school but it does have a teaching “piece.”  This means that the reproduction of copyrighted items for general patient care, etc., is treated just as if it were in a non-teaching nonprofit hospital.  Any copying done for classes, however, would be treated under the nonprofit educational exceptions in the Act, but only that activity.

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