Copyright, Fair Use, and the Library

Learn about Fair Use

More information on Reserves and ARES

Course Reserves

The purpose of a reserve collection is to supports instruction by providing timely and efficient access to high demand materials. Both the American Library of Association (ALA) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) have asserted that reserve collections in libraries function as extensions of the classroom allowing them to provide access, under certain conditions, to copyright protected materials as stated in Section 107 and Section 108 of the Copyright Act as it relates to the rights to use these materials for the purpose of teaching and research. 

Access is limit to the faculty member for a particular course as well as the students enrolled in that course for which the items have been placed on reserve and to the library staff members responsible for maintaining the electronic reserve system. As stated in the ALA Model Policy, "materials placed on reserve by faculty are not intended to constitute all of the materials assigned for the course."

According to fair use guidelines, the following materials may be placed on reserve at the request of faculty.

  • Course reserve materials that are intended for non-commercial educational use.
  • Copies of materials that are legally owned by the Library or a faculty member.   
  • Books not owned by the library or the faculty member.  If the library or the faculty member does not own a book that needs to be placed on reserve, the library will purchase it, if possible, and place it on reserve.
  • Articles not available through the library databases. If the library or the faculty member does not have access to a journal or a newspaper article that needs to be placed on reserve, the Library will obtain it through interlibrary loan. The faculty member then needs to obtain copyright permission to place this material on reserve.
  • Materials available in the public domain. 
  • Unpublished materials (such as theses, dissertations, power point presentations, faculty notes or student papers ) with written permission from the copyright owner. 
  • The library does not purchase textbooks, but will place a faculty member’s personal copy of a textbook or course pack on reserve for one semester. Permission must be obtained from the copyright holder by the faulty member if the same reserve item(s) are to be kept on reserve for the same course for consecutive academic terms.
  • The Library will not provide free copies of reserve materials which are considered to be violation of  the U.S. Copyright Law.


The responsibilities of faculty at Molloy in regard to copyright policy:

  • All course materials submitted by instructors must support course related teaching, scholarship or research.
  • The faculty members are responsible for evaluating whether the use of a copyrighted work requires permission or qualifies as fair use. The reserve services librarian will provide information resources and guidance to faculty members to help them in evaluating the qualifications of a specific use as fair use. When permission is required, a faculty member is expected to make any necessary arrangements.
  • Under the fair use guidelines, the amount copied and used should be reasonable and only be the amount needed to accomplish the specific educational purpose.  The reserve services librarian will provide information resources and guidance to faculty members to help them evaluate any limits on the amount of material that they may place on reserve.
  • In order to follow the guidelines of fair use, faculty must limit the distribution of course related materials in course packs to single articles or chapters, or several charts, graphs, or illustrations or small portions of performed works including audiovisual works. 

Electronic Reserves (eReserves via ARES)

Under the fair use guidelines, "the fair use of a copyrighted work...[for] teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."  The ALA recommends that libraries apply the four factors of fair use to determine whether digitizing specific materials and repeatedly placing them on eReserve is permissible.

According to the Music Library Association's interpretation of the fair use provisions of the Copyright Law, which permits multiple copies to be made of copyrighted works for classroom use, libraries may make digital copies of sound recordings in their entirety and transmit these works electronically through course reserve pages. Use of these electronically transmitted recordings for the purpose of scholarship or research is also considered to be fair use.

The policies governing eReserves are based on the provisions of fair use (17 U.S.C. 107).  All materials placed on E-Reserve will be at the request of Molloy faculty members for the expressed purpose of non-commercial educational use. Authorized access to E-Reserve material is available free of charge to Molloy faculty and students (on and off-campus) under one or more of the following conditions:

  • Access is limited to the faculty member who placed the material on reserve, the students enrolled in that course and the library staff members responsible for maintaining the eReserve system.
  • Access to eReserve material for a particular course is limited to the duration of that course.
  • The material on reserve is available in a database to which the library subscribes electronically
  • The material is available in the public domain.
  • An individual chapter from a book or an article from a periodical that is placed on eReserve is from an item legally obtained by the faculty member placing it on reserve or by the library.   (An entire book, collection, or course pack may not be placed on eReserve).
  • The total amount of material made available on eReserve for a specific course, as a matter of fair use, is limited to a small portion of the total assigned reading for that particular course.
  • Digital transmission of A/V materials for a specific class is limited to the amount needed to satisfy the pedagogical needs of that class.
  • No small portion(s) of any DVD may be reproduced and placed on eReserve when this is considered to be "interfering with technological access controls that a copyright holder place on a copyrighted work" as such duplication may nterfere with the anti-circumvention provision of the Copyright Act.
  • No material will be placed on eReserve without copyright permission when the nature, scope or extent of this material is judged by the Molloy Library to exceed the reasonable limits of fair use.
  • Permission must be obtained from the copyright holder by a faculty member who intends to keep any reserve materials for a specific course on eReserve for consecutive academic terms, or if the reserve item in question is a required or optional reading for an individual course taught in multiple sections by many instructors.
  • The material in electronic format may be retained on eReserve while permission is being sought or until the next academic term in which the material will be used, but in no event for more than three calendar years, including the year in which the materials were last used.


Multimedia Reserves

Audiovisual and other multimedia materials are subject to copyright protection.  In order to provide adequate access to course reserves for audiovisuals, it is important to understand the definition of acceptable use for this material because there are stricter guidelines governing their use.  

In the Second Report of the Register of Copyrights (January 1988), it states, "reproduction of music, pictorial and graphic works, motion pictures and most audiovisual works for private study, scholarship, and research is to be governed by fair use under Section 107."  Under Section 108 (d) and (e) it also indicates that copying of audiovisual materials for use in reserve collections is generally justified under the fair use guidelines.

The Music Library Association takes the position that libraries may make digital copies of sound recordings in their entirely and transmit these works electronically through course reserve pages that may be accessed by students and faculty through any computer.  The Association states that "the making of digital copies of entire works, in order to provide digital delivery of course reserves, is a fair use under this statute and is analogous to established practices."

In accordance with copyright guidelines, the following audiovisual materials may be placed on reserve:

  • Copies of commercially produced A/V materials that were legally purchased by the library.
  • A faculty member's personal copy of copyrighted A/V material that is a commercially produced audio/video recording with accompanying written permission from the copyright owner. (personal or "home-made" copies of, or excerpts from, commercially produced A / V material are illegal and  may not be placed on reserve.)
  • Copies of off-air broadcast recordings (for a period not exceeding 45 days) for use by students in a specific class. All copies of such off-air recordings must include a notice of permission from the copyright holder for the broadcasted program.