Fair Use

Copied materials intended for library reserve use must comply with the 1976 Copyright Law, as interpreted and elaborated by various professional and academic associations including the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), as well as "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998."

  • Copying materials for educational purposes does NOT itself constitute fair use.
  • It is necessary for the individual instructor to get permission from the copyright holder before making copies for the library reserve use.
  • A copy of the letter granting permission or a copy of written proof of a purchase of a reprint must be given to the reserve supervisor before items will be accepted.
  • If the immediate need for using the material does not allow for a reply to a copyright permission request, the material may be used one semester, but must adhere to the following guidelines. The guidelines, described below, ensure propriety and minimize any risk of overinterpreting fair use. Written permission from the copyright holder overrides all restrictions below.
  1. The copied material may not substitute for the purchase of books or journals.
  2. Copied materials may not be from consumable sources (workbooks, answer sheets, etc.).
  3. The copyright notice must appear on all the first pages of photocopied material and be visible. The title of the source, the volume and the date must also be visible.
  4. When need is immediate and there is not time to obtain permission from the copyright holder in advance, the item may be placed on reserve for one semester only and must conform to the following guidelines:
  5. The copied articles may not be reused without permission. They may not be transferred from course to course, semester to semester, or from one faculty member to another. Copying is for only one course.
  6. The number of multiple copies of a selection should be reasonable (taking into consideration the number of students enrolled in a class, the difficulty and times of the assignment, and the material). The ALA suggests no more than 5 copies.
  7. Limits for copying: --An article from a journal may not exceed 2500 words.*
    --An excerpt from a book may not exceed 1000 words or 10% of the total work, whichever is shorter.*

    *According to ACRL and ALA interpretation of the Copyright Law, "Faculty members needing to exceed these limits for college education should not feel hampered by these guidelines, although they should attempt a 'selective and sparing' use of photocopied, copyrighted material." (Jensen, p. 181).

    --There may be no more than 1 illustration of any kind (chart, graph, photo, drawing, advertisement) per book or per periodical issue.
    --Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay, or two excerpts may be copied from the same author.
    --Not more than three works or excerpts may be copied from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
    --There may be no more than nine instances of multiple copying for one course during one class term.

  8. Copied materials shall not cost the student more than the actual cost of photocopying.
  9. If the copied article was purchased at a seminar (or if the circumstances are similar), sign and date the material to establish that it is your own personal copy and not the responsibility of the library.


Bruwelheide, Janis H. "Classroom Photocopying." In The Copyright Primer for Librarians and Educators, 2nd ed., 30-36. Chicago: American Library Association, 1995.

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998." Copyright Office Summary, Dec. 1998. URL: http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright. A link to the "summary" is found on the United States Copyright Office Home Page under the "Legislation" section.

Jensen, Mary Brandt. "Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-for-Profit Educational Institutions With Respect to Books and Periodicals." In Does Your Project Have Copyright Problem?, 169-171. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1996.

__________. "Classroom and Reserve Use Guidelines (ACRL/ALA)." In Does Your Project Have Copyright Problem?, 176-185. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1996. 176-185.

Last Update: August 6, 2007