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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Copyright Reference Guide: Librarians

Copyright for Librarians

ARL's Code of Best Practices

The Association of Research Libraries has published a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries.

Making Copies

Section 108 of copyright law is an exception that allows libraries to reproduce certain copyrighted materials without permission under certain conditions. Libraries must meet the following requirements in order to utilize Section 108:

  • The copy must not be made for commercial reasons
  • The library’s collections must be open to the public or the collections must be available not just to researchers at the institution but to any researcher in the relevant field
  • The reproduction must include a copyright notice

If a library meets all of these requirements, they may make and distribute one copy of a work except in the situations outlined below.

Section 108(b) states that libraries may make up to three copies of an unpublished work for the purposes of preservation or deposit in another library. The library must lawfully own a copy of the work and must still meet the requirements listed above. If digital copies are made, those copies can only be made available on the library premise.

Section 108(c) allows up to three copies can be made of lost, damaged, or deteriorating, materials, or works that are stored on obsolete formats provided that an unused copy of the work cannot be obtained at a fair price. Again, these copies must meet the guidelines from above and digital copies can only be made available within the library.

User Copies
Section 108(d) allows a single article or small portion of a longer work may be copied for a user as long as it is not for commercial use and the library has a prominent copyright notice posted both where users place copy orders and on the order form. Under the same conditions, an entire work can be copied for a user if the library determines that a new copy cannot be obtained at a fair price.

Copyright Signs

Section 108(f) establishes that libraries have limited liability if a patron uses library equipment (scanner, copy machine, etc.) to violate copyright law as long as the library posts a notice on the equipment. Similar signs should be posted if there is a place where librarians take orders for making copies. See the Copyright Notices at Libraries document to see the exact wording that the law requires.

Copyright Advocacy

It is important to become an advocate for balanced copyright law. You can keep yourself informed about copyright law through the ALA website. As an advocate, maintain a dialog with politicians to remind them that fair use and other copyright topics are important to you and to your users. 

Further Reading: