Rensselaer Libraries

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Library Copyright Compliance Policies For Class Reserves and Photocopying

Posted: Aug 26, 2010

U.S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code) covers printed and electronic materials, recordings, computer programs, graphic designs, performances as well as handwritten class notes and homework solutions - all manner of tangible expression of creative enterprise. It governs how copyright protected materials can be used and duplicated.

The law explicitly permits libraries and archives to reproduce single copies of works for replacement and preservation and to provide individuals with single copies of works for their private use under certain conditions (Section 108). Except for a few specific classroom teaching situations, copyright law generally obligates a teacher to seek the permission of copyright holders before making and using multiple copies of copyrighted works published within the last 95 years.

Instructors should also be aware that use of many electronic resources (e.g. full-text journals or multimedia works), is commonly governed by licensing agreements that supplant "fair use" permitted by copyright guidelines.

However, since the general revision of Copyright Law in 1976, Congress has continued to modify the law to clarify how educators can use copyrighted digital materials in classroom environments. The principles of "fair use" continue to apply to both print and other media, but it is now clear that

  • educators may incorporate excerpts of copyright protected material into their teaching materials;
  • instructors can show performances, e.g., movies or have students perform scripts, in their classrooms;
  • copyright protected materials, such as movies and sound recordings, can be included in transmissions to other students involved in the same course in a distant learning situation; and
  • students can include excerpts of copyright protected into homework assignments.

In all the above cases, it is required that copyrighted materials used by an instructor are not available to the public and the instructor must be associated with a non-profit educational institution.

Library Policies

In order to protect Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from liability for copyright infringement the Libraries have developed the following policies relating to the handling of copyrighted and/or licensed materials for class reserve use and the copying of materials for individuals:

  • The Libraries will make single copies of copyrighted materials for class reserve use in accordance with "fair use" guidelines and Section 107 or for individuals in accordance with Section 108 of US Copyright Law.
  • The Libraries will not use materials for class reserve purposes or make available through the Class Reserve database resources whose copyright ownership and licensing agreements, when applicable, cannot be accurately identified or fully determined.
  • The Libraries reserve the right in their judgement to refuse to use materials for class reserve purposes or to make available resources through the Class Reserve database that might violate either copyright law or licensing agreements.
  • The Libraries will promptly remove from use and/or delete from the Class Reserve database any material or electronic resource they discover that might infringe copyright or violate licensing agreements.
  • The Libraries reserve the right in their judgment to refuse either to accept a photocopying request that would involve a violation of copyright law or to make available in Class Reserves such materials that might have been duplicated in violation of copyright law.
  • Final responsibility for obtaining and demonstrating that copyright holder's permission for use either has been received, is actively being sought, and/or that usage complies with licensing agreements resides with the faculty member requesting class reserve service.
Examples of "Unfair" or Illegal Use

Typical photocopying requests that are not "fair use" and require obtaining the copyright holder's permission (and usually entailing the payment of royalties) for use include:

  • An employee requests a single copy of a work on behalf of a company's research office;
  • A research associate wants to distribute copies of a journal article he or she wrote to persons attending an upcoming national conference, but the copyright notice at the bottom of the page shows the article to be registered in the publisher's name;
  • An instructor wants to use the same photocopies of readings she used for the same course last year;
  • An administrator directs a secretary to photocopy and distribute copies of the "Wall Street Journal's News In Brief" section to all departmental staff daily;
  • An assistant professor requests that three photocopies of a chapter from a book be placed on Class Reserve in the library for his class;
  • An associate professor wants to have photocopies of selected readings sold at the bookstore because there is no satisfactory textbook available.
  • An adjunct professor downloads a file from a library database and posts it on her personal website for students to read.
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