Libraries and Copyright
Copyright law is of central importance to libraries. Many library services are subject to the limitations and conditions of various copyright exceptions, most notably fair use and Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The materials on this website give particular emphasis to those copyright provisions. The checklists found below may be reproduced or adapted to suit your needs, but please do so under a "Creative Commons Attribution Only" license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/) with this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director."
See the following pages for more detailed information about Section 108 and its application to various library services.
*This section and subsections are from, and are used under a Creative Commons BY license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.
Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act allows eligible libraries and archives to reproduce and distribute certain materials for specific purposes, under conditions spelled out in relatively rigorous detail.
What libraries may use Section 108?
A library is eligible for the benefits of Section 108 if its collections are open to the public, or are available to researchers who are not affiliated with the institution, but who are doing research in a specific field. Most public and academic libraries and archives will qualify.
Which activities are permitted by Section 108?
The statute principally applies to copies for preservation and for research, but the scope of Section 108 is outlined more fully below. Section 108 also offers protection for libraries that post warning notices on copying machines.
Can the library make multiple copies of works under Section 108?
The statute generally permits only single copies of works in isolated and unrelated occasions. The preservation and replacement provisions permit up to three copies on a single occasion.
What if my activities are not within Section 108?
The uses of a copyrighted work may instead be within fair use or another statutory exception, or the library may seek permission from the copyright owner.
Section 108 Resources
- Full Text of Section 108 (17 U.S.C. § 108)
- Analysis of Section 108 by Kenneth Crews (prepared in 2001)
- Nifty Section 108 "Spinner" Tool from the American Library Association
- The Section 108 Study Group convened for three years, and in its 2008 report proposed a variety of changes to the statute. Congress has not taken action on these proposals, but watch for any new developments.
Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.