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Copyright & Fair Use for Reserves: Fair Use

This guide is an overview of copyright and fair use guidelines for use in electronic and paper reserves.

What is Fair Use?

A legal doctrine that portions of copyrighted materials may be used without permission of the copyright owner provided the use is fair and reasonable, does not substantially impair the value of the materials, and does not curtail the profits reasonably expected by the owner. Merriam-Webster, < use>.

Fair Use Evaluator

  • Fair Use Evaluator:  helps users collect, organize, and document the information they may need to support a fair use claim, and  provides a time-stamped PDF document for the users’ records. Developed by the American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

"Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms."  From Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society.

Fair Use and Electronic Reserves

Applying Fair Use in the Development of Electronic Reserves Systems

The following guidelines were developed from a joint effort of and provided courtesy of: The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), The American Library Association (ALA), The Association of College Research Libraries (ACRL), The Medical Library Association (MLA) and The Special Libraries Association (SLA).

  1. The character of the use. Libraries implement e-reserves systems in support of nonprofit education.
  2. The nature of the work to be used. E-reserve systems include text materials, both factual and creative. They also serve the interests of faculty and students who study music, film, art and images. Librarians take the character of the materials into consideration in the overall balancing of interests.
  3. The amount used. Librarians consider the relationship of the specific amount used to the whole of the copyright owner's work. Because the specific amount of a copyrighted work that a faculty member assigns depends on many factors (such as its relevance to the teaching objective and the overall amount of material assigned), librarians may also consider whether that specific amount – or even the entire work – is appropriate to support the lesson or make the point.
  4. The effect of the use on the market for or value of the work. Many libraries limit e-reserves access to students within the institution or within a particular class or classes. Many also use technology to restrict and/or block access to help ensure that only registered students access the content. Libraries generally terminate students' access to electronic systems at the end of a relevant term (i.e., semester, quarter or year) or after the students have completed the course.

From the Campus Guide to Copyright Compliance


Rosemary Burgos-Mira's picture
Rosemary Burgos-Mira
Wisser Library
Old Westbury, NY
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