Exceptions and limitations to copyright for educational purposes are a legal construct, which is instrumental to an accessible and quality educational system. It is fundamental to the constitutional right to education and enables teachers to do their job, without having to seek permission from the right holders, every time they use copyrighted content.
Exception to copyright for educational purposes is provided by the InfoSoc Directive of the European Union, however the provision is optional which has led to great differences in the national laws. Slovenia has chosen a more restrictive approach with narrow exeptions, not covering the use of work in digital environments. Estonia on the other hand, adopted a very broad, technology neutral exception, enabling free use of all kinds of copyrighted works for the purposes of non-commercial educational activities. In the USA, the judges are the ones who decide on a case by case basis, wheather the use is in accordance with the fair use doctrine. This approach offers more flexibility to adapt to new technologies, but less legal certainty.
Recently, the European Union adopted a reform of copyright law, which also affected the education exception. The reform was much-awaited. The education sector was hoping for a mandatory exception, able to achieve harmonization among member states and covering new ways of teaching. The result was an exception that is optional in practice, because it gives the member states the right not to apply it, provided there are adequate licences in the market. It only covers the online uses within the closed networks, run by the educational institution and the beneficiaries are only formal educational establishments.