Libraries & 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 below for more detailed information about Section 108 and its application to various library services.

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."

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

Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.

Course Reserves

Course Reserve materials may be in print, electronic, and multimedia formats in compliance with the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Whenever possible and allowed by the U.S. Copyright Law, materials will be scanned as electronic documents and made available to students 24/7.

Fair Use Is Not Free Use

To use copyrighted materials for Course Reserves the material(s) must be used for nonprofit reasons such as education and research. Using small portions of the material for referrals is generally allowed. However, if the copyright owner disallows use, then Course Reserves must comply.

For more details on Fair Use, see that section in this guide.

Course Reserves, Copyright and You

I have never worried about copyright compliance before. Why now?
The FIU Libraries must comply with the U.S Copyright Law.
What kinds of materials can I place on Reserve that will be copyright compliant?
Most books can be placed on print (non-PDF) reserve. Photocopies of articles either in print or PDF format and multimedia materials must comply with the Copyright Law.
What kinds of materials can I place on Reserve that do not require copyright compliance?
Non-copyrighted works, such as study guides and past exams. Some government documents may not be copyrighted, so verify this from a government documents librarian if you are unsure.
Do I have to seek permission from the publishers?
No, the Library will assume this responsibility. You will be notified if permission is not granted.
What happens if the material I need does not receive permission to be used?
Then the Library is unable to place this material on Reserve. The Library must comply.
Will I be notified if the copyright use is denied?
Yes, you will be notified and your material will be returned.
When should I submit materials for placement on Reserve?
30 to 45 days before the semester begins. Please allow about 2 weeks for your materials to be processed and placed on Reserve. You may submit materials at any time during the semester.
If I intend to keep a material on Reserve every semester, do I need to resubmit this request each semester?
Yes, in accordance with the Copyright Law all Reserve materials must be renewed for each semester. An electronic notice will be sent to you as a reminder.
What type of materials can be placed on Electronic Reserves?
Due to copyright restrictions and other technical considerations, only articles published in journals, magazines, newspapers, and most book chapters are eligible for this service.
Course Reserves Policy

Preservation

Once a library or archives has determined that it is qualified to use Section 108, it may make copies of materials for purposes of preserving items in the collection or replacing items that are lost, damaged, stolen, or deteriorated, or that are in an obsolete format. The law applies in a significantly different manner to unpublished and published works, as summarized below. Remember, if you do not fit the requirements of Section 108, you may still evaluate whether your use is within fair use or another statutory exception, or you may seek permission from the copyright owner.

Unpublished Works (Section 108(b))

A library or archives is permitted to make up to three copies of an unpublished work solely for purposes of preservation, security, or deposit at another library. One of the most important benefits of this provision is that a library may make copies of any unpublished work and even deposit copies at another library. The statute also explicitly permits digital formats for preservation, but with the restriction that access to the digital copy must be limited to the premises of the library.

Published Works (Section 108(c))

A library or archives is permitted to make up to three copies of a published work in order to replace an item that was in the collections. The work may be reproduced only if it is damaged, deteriorating, lost, stolen, or in an obsolete format. A work is considered to be in an obsolete format if the device needed to view the work is no longer available on the commercial marketplace for a reasonable price. In all events, the library must first determine whether an unused replacement of the work may be obtained on the market at a fair price. Like the law on unpublished works, this law permits digital formats for these reproductions, but again with the restriction that access to the digital copy must be limited to the premises of the library.

Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.

Private Study

Once a library or archives has determined that it is qualified to use Section 108, it may make a single copy of certain types of works to give to a user of the library for that person’s individual use. See also the requirement to post specific notices in connection with these provisions of Section 108. The law applies in a slightly different manner to copies of short works and copies of entire works, as summarized below. Remember, if you do not fit the requirements of Section 108, you may still evaluate whether your use is within fair use or another statutory exception, or you may seek permission from the copyright owner.

Copies of articles, book chapters, or other short works (Section 108(d))

A library or archives may make one copy of an article or other short work, such as a book chapter, for a patron’s individual study and research. Under this section the patron may request only a small part or contribution to a copyrighted work.

Copies of an entire book or a substantial part of a work (Section 108(e))

Section 108 also allows a library or archives to make one copy of an entire work or a substantial part of a work for a patron’s individual study. The library using this provision of Section 108 must, before making the copy, also investigate the market for the availability of a copy of the work for purchase.

Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.

Interlibrary Loan

Libraries may make, send, and receive copies of copyrighted materials through interlibrary loan (ILL) services under Section 108. The sending and receiving libraries must comply with different provisions of the statute.

Requirements of the library making and sending the copy

In effect, the sending library is making the copy for a patron’s private study or research. In that regard, the library should therefore comply with the private study provisions of Section 108 that permit copies of short items and even entire works under defined circumstances. Copies typically requested through ILL include articles, chapters, and other similar works that are encompassed by those provisions of Section 108.

Requirements of the library receiving the copy

For many activities under Section 108, libraries are allowed to make single or isolated copies, and are not to engage in "systematic reproduction or distribution" of materials. However, libraries are allowed to engage in ILL arrangements, so long as the arrangements "do not have, as their purpose or effect, that the library or archives receiving such copies or phonorecords for distribution does so in such aggregate quantities as to substitute for a subscription to or purchase of such work."

The concept underlying this language is that at some point the copying will signal to the library that demand for a work might justify the library’s purchasing its own copy of or subscription to a publication, rather than relying on ILL.

The law does not define the specific threshold at which the library should purchase its own copy of the work. However, the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU) promulgated guidelines that add specificity to this requirement as it applies to journal articles. The CONTU guidelines generally allow a library to receive, in one year, up to five copies of articles from the most recent five years of a journal title.

Alternatives for a library that has reached the prescribed CONTU limit

  • The library may purchase its own subscription to the journal.
  • The library may choose not to fulfill additional requests for articles from the journal.
  • The library may seek permission from the copyright owner to make additional copies; for some works, a license may be available from the Copyright Clearance Center.
  • The library may reconsider the appropriateness of the CONTU guidelines for a particular situation; these standards are not law.
  • The library may evaluate whether the additional copies are within fair use or another statutory exception.
Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.

Copy Machines


Unsupervised Copying Equipment

Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act includes a simple provision that can give important protection for libraries. By posting a general notice about copyright on photocopiers and other machines, the library is protected from liability for infringements committed by users of the equipment, provided the use is "unsupervised" by the library staff. The notices commonly appear on photocopiers, computers, scanners, and other devices in academic and public libraries.

Why should the library post a copyright notice?
Section 108(f)(1) of the U.S. Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) gives protection to libraries, archives, and their employees from liability that may arise from the "unsupervised use" of photocopy machines and other equipment at the library, provided that the equipment displays a notice about copyright law. (The text of the U.S. Copyright Act, including Section 108, is available on the U.S. Copyright Office website.)

The wording of the statute might stir a few questions, but the basic proposition is clear: If the library places the notice on the machine, the library may avoid potential legal liability for infringements that a user commits by using that equipment, provided that the use is not supervised by library staff. This law does not create complete immunity for all parties. The library may avoid legal responsibility, but the user of the machine may remain liable for his or her activities. For libraries, however, the cost of compliance is low, and the benefit is potentially enormous.

What equipment should have the notice?
The statute is applicable to more than just photocopiers. The language of the provision refers to “reproducing equipment” located on the "premises" of the library or archives. Therefore, librarians should affix an appropriate notice on any machine or equipment in the library that is available for use without staff supervision, and that is capable of making a copy of any work.

Notices may be affixed to computers, printers, scanners, detachable drives, tape decks, microfilm readers, cameras, and any other devices that are capable of making copies. Because the burden of compliance is low, the library should ordinarily resolve any doubt in favor of simply attaching the notice.

What is the standard form of notice?
The law specifies little about the content, placement, layout, or other details regarding the notices. Many libraries use this familiar statement, which has been recommended by the American Library Association:

Notice: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The person using this equipment is liable for any infringement.

Libraries generally print the notice in a bold font and affix the printed notice or other placard to each machine where a user is likely to see it. The statute specifies that the "equipment" must display the notice. Therefore, it is preferable to post the notice on the equipment itself, and not generally nearby. The notice might be posted with scissors and tape, or it might be part of a computer’s screen saver or desktop. In all cases, the notice should be placed where a user of the equipment is reasonably likely to see it and read it.

Are alternative notices possible?
Because of the changing nature of equipment, copyrighted materials, and intended uses, the library may also consider innovative forms and placements of the notices. If space is tight on a small piece of equipment, the library might use a minimalist approach:

Notice: The making of a copy may be subject to copyright law.

Alternatively, the notice can be an opportunity to give more helpful information about copyright. Libraries might post a more elaborate notice:

Notice: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material; the person using this equipment is liable for any infringement. For more information about copyright law, the rights of copyright owners, and the right of fair use to make limited copies for purposes such as teaching, research, and study at Florida International University, visit the Library copyright website at https://library.fiu.edu/copyright/faqs

Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director.