Copyright and Libraries

The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 USC section 101, et seq, governs, for the United States, how literary, artistic, phonographic, photographic, musical,  film, digital, and other creative works may be utilized by people other than the creators of those works. While the law provides a broad safe harbor against prosecution for uses that are deemed “Fair Use,” it should be noted that “Fair Use” requires an analysis of the planned use against a set of four criteria – and a non-profit, “educational” use is not always, by itself, a Fair Use.

Four Prong Test of Fair Use:

  1.  the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Section 108 Library Uses –
17 USC 108 is the section of the Copyright Act that provides libraries with special permissions to lend and photocopy works for distribution to the public and to provide patrons with the ability to copy materials in the library. Part of section 108 is the requirement that libraries place specific notice language on public copiers, faxes, printers, and scanners:
(i.e. "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.” From RUSA (Reference & User Services division of ALA) 

Related Links:
ALA Copyright/Fair Use LibGuide/Research Guide  
ALA Fair Use Evaluator Index & Table of Contents
ALA Issues and Advocacy – Copyright Tools
Columbia University Copyright Advisory Service, Fair Use Checklist
United States Copyright Office. More Information on Fair Use
Section 108 Explanation via Copyright Crash Course
Copyright Office Circular 21 “Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Libraries and Educators