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Electronic Reserve Copyright Guidelines

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, US Code) governs the making of reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions, libraries are authorized to furnish a reproduction, but one of the specified conditions is that the reproduction will not be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.

Because the library is considered an extension of the classroom, access to reserve materials is limited to course and instructor's name. When faculty submit items to Reserve/EReserve, they should provide the author's name, title of the work, and copyright statement, if there is one. Reserve materials are available only for the semester in which the class is taught. Any uses beyond the first semester require copyright permission. 

Instructors should not place materials on reserve unless the instructor, the library, or another unit of the university possesses a lawfully obtained copy. The total amount of material on reserve for a class should be a small proportion of the total assigned reading for that class when invoking fair use. Materials are available only to the University of Vermont community and all are expected to adhere to these copyright and fair use guidelines.

New, and as yet uncodified, interpretations of the copyright law apply to libraries' electronic reserve systems that provide access to online class materials. Therefore, University Libraries Copyright Guidelines apply alike to materials provided through the David W. Howe Memorial Library Reserve Desk and to materials available through Electronic Reserve.

The guidelines described below apply to all Howe Library Reserves and are in compliance with US Code, Title 17 and UVM Copyright Policy V.2.12.1. Material submitted which violates any of these regulations will NOT knowingly be made available by the library. Instructors will be notified upon discovery of copyright violations and will result in delayed access to class materials through University Libraries.

Fair Use Guidelines 

Content courtsey of University of Michigan Libraries.

Fair use allows certain uses of copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder. There are four factors to consider when determining whether your use is a fair one. You must consider all the factors, but not all the factors have to favor fair use for the use to be fair.

The four fair use factors are

  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.

Fair use favors “purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, [and] research.” While many uses for educational purposes are fair, not all are. You need to evaluate your use each time you are reproducing copyrighted material — to show in your class, to hand out copies, to include in your writing, or to post on your course website.

Fair use is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107.

Understanding the Four Factors:

First Factor: "The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes"

  • Uses that fall under one of the favored purposes listed in the fair use statute (17 U.S.C. § 107) or have a nonprofit educational purpose will weigh in favor of fair use. Favored purposes include scholarship, research, criticism, and comment.
  • Uses that are commercial weigh against fair use, while uses that are noncommercial weigh in favor of fair use.
  • Uses that are transformative weigh in favor of fair use. A use is transformative when the use adds new meaning or message to the original work, giving it a new purpose. For example, imagine you are writing a scholarly article about the impacts of advertising directed to children. You include a toy advertisement and analyze how it reached a child audience. The original purpose of the advertisement was to increase demand for the toy, while your purpose is for scholarship and critique, making your use transformative. Quoting another scholar's analysis of the advertisement would not necessarily be transformative, though it is still often fair use.

Second Factor: "The nature of the copyrighted work"

  • If the work used is creative, that will weigh against fair use. If the work used is factual, that will weigh in favor of fair use. The outcome of this subfactor varies depending on the work used.
  • If the work used is unpublished, that will weigh against fair use. However, the fair use statute explicitly states that the unpublished nature of a work will not bar fair use if the use is otherwise fair. The outcome of this subfactor varies depending on the work used.

Third Factor: "The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole"

  • Using all or much of the original work will weigh against fair use. The outcome of this subfactor varies depending on the use.
  • Using the most important part of the original work (the "heart") will weigh against fair use, even if it is only a small amount of the work. The outcome of this subfactor varies depending on the use.
  • The third factor is neutralized if the amount used is necessary for a transformative purpose, even if the entire original work is used. For instance, the third factor would be neutralized in the use of the toy advertisement described above — all of the advertisement has to be used in order to achieve the transformative use.

Fourth Factor: "The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work"

  • Uses that decrease demand for the original work by providing a substitute will weigh against fair use.
  • Uses that decrease demand for the original work by criticizing it (as with a negative film review) have no impact on the fourth factor.
  • If the licensing market for the use you are making is "traditional, reasonable, or likely to develop," that will weigh against fair use.

Please refer to the FAQ section of the University of Michigan Fair Use reserch guide for helpful examples.

The University of Vermont Libraries attributes the content regarding Fair Use to the University of Michigan Libraries Fair Use research guide.  The University of Michigan provides these guidelines subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Comments? Questions? Concerns? Contact Reserve Department, David W. Howe Memorial Library, 656-2023. 

last rev. 07/22