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Copyright and Fair Use: Course Reserves

Overview of fair use, DMCA, TEACH Act, and recent court decisions

What about Putting Material on Reserve in the Library?

Materials placed on reserve must comply with both federal copyright law and university copyright policy. Any readings not clearly within the scope of the "Fair Use" provisions of 17 U.S.C., Section 107 will not be added to the reserve system without permission of the copyright holder. The Circulation staff will gladly request permission, but please note that the process takes several weeks, and publishers often refuse such requests.

Clear-cut examples of "fair use" include:

  • No more than 3 copies of any article or book chapter, used for a single semester
  • 1 article from a journal or 1 chapter from a book, used for a single semester
  • Course notes
  • Course syllabi  

Examples of material requiring permission of copyright holder:

  • Any copyrighted material used for more than one semester
  • "Consumable" materials--copyrighted tests, solutions, worksheets
  • More than one chapter from a book, or more than one article from an issue of a journal
  • Articles from multiple sources, collected into an anthology to be used as a text for the course
  • Student papers, which do enjoy copyright protection, may constitute academic records, and are covered by Winthrop’s Intellectual Property policy.

Dacus Library has followed the lead of many libraries by making electronic reserves available. This is best done by pointing to the links among the many full-text databases to which the library now subscribes.  With over 30,000 full-text access journals, faculty should be able to point students to any reading for which Winthrop has already paid access. Databases like JSTOR and Academic Search Premier provide legally permissible ways to use electronic reserves. Dacus electronic reserves are structured to limit access to students registered in the course for which the items have been placed on reserve and to instructors and staff responsible for the course or the electronic system. 

For any other item the library does not own, Dacus may digitize it, provided that library staff follows the same rules that apply to print reserves. This also means Dacus has to remove the item following the end of that class and must require written permission for any subsequent use after the first use. 

Further, the library abides by the CONFU Guidelines. Although these guidelines are not legally binding, they are the most commonly applied and followed by university libraries and assure legally permissible copyright use. While the guidelines did not come up with a “one best way,” four legally permissible approaches were recommended. They appear below. Dacus follows both a) and c):

(a) individual password controls or verification of a student's registration status; or 
(b) password system for each class; or 
(c) retrieval of works by course number or instructor name, but not by author or title of the work; or
(d) access limited to workstations that are ordinarily used by, or are accessible only to, enrolled students or appropriate staff or faculty.