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Copyright, Fair Use and Electronic Reserves for Faculty: Home

Information on fair use guidelines and electronic reserves at Utica College Library.

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright is applicable to reserve materials.  Compliance is the responsibility of the faculty member.  Materials obtained through interlibrary loan cannot be placed on reserve.

U.S. copyright law's fair use exemption (section 107) allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission.  There is a four-factor analysis which must be applied to each use to determine if fair use applies:

  • Purpose of Use
  • Nature of the Copyrighted Material
  • Amount Copied
  • Effect on the Market for Original

For more information on fair use as it relates to reserve materials, please see:

Reserves at UC Library

For more information on using the reserve system at UC Library - both electronic reserves, and physical reserves at the Circulation Desk - please visit the Reserves section of the Faculty Library Guide.

Fair Use FAQs

 This information does not pertain to video, audio, and other media formats. 

1.      What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. 

2.      What is fair use?

Fair use is a concept embedded in U.S. law that recognizes that certain uses of copyright-protected works do not require permission from the copyright holder (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).

The Fair Use Doctrine is probably the most important exemption to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research.

3.      What determines fair use?

The following four factors are used to determine if a use is fair:

   1.The purpose of the use (e.g. commercial vs. educational)*

   2.The nature of the copyrighted work

   3.The amount of the material used

   4.The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work

*Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use! 

4.      How can I tell if what I want to use falls under the fair use guidelines? 

The fair use checklist and variations on it have been widely used for many years to help educators, librarians, and other users of copyrighted works determine whether their activities are within the limits of fair use under U.S. copyright law (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).  Fair use is determined by a balanced application of  the four factors set forth in the statute: (1) the purpose of the use; (2) the nature of the work used; (3) the amount and substantiality of the work used; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work used.  Those factors form the structure of the checklist.  

See the fair use check list  from Cornell University. 

5.      What can be placed on reserve? 

a.      Lawfully obtained copies possessed by the faculty, library or another unit of the educational institution.  Public domain documents, class notes.

b.      Journal articles: One article from an issue. This is a guideline, not law. Generally, the larger the amount used, the less likely that it is fair use.

c.       Books: A good guideline is 10% of the book if it is 10 chapters or less; one chapter if there are more than 10 chapters.  Remember – this is a guideline, not law. Generally, the larger the amount used, the less likely that it is fair use.

d.      Consumables cannot be placed on reserve – this usually applies to workbooks that are meant to be used once. 

6.      I have an article that I got through interlibrary loan. Can I place that on reserve? 

Books and articles obtained through interlibrary loan cannot be placed on reserve.           

7.      Should I link to a document or make a copy (pdf)? 

Best practice under fair use is to link to a document (usually on a website or in the library databases) whenever possible. 

8.      I have done the fair use analysis and believe I need permission from the copyright owner.  Where do I get copyright permission? 

The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) at is the first place to check for permission.  CCC facilitates copyright compliance by providing one-stop-shopping for those seeking permissions to use materials.  

9.      How long does it take and what does it cost? 

The short answer is “it depends”.  See the Pay-Per-Use Services brochure at the Copyright Clearance Center for more information on getting permission. 

10.  What if I think I’m following fair use and I’m wrong and violate copyright?

It is important to document a good faith effort to conform to copyright law. Although rare, there have been recent cases of academic institutions being sued by copyright owners and publishers for copyright infringement. It is recommended that you document your good faith effort by conducting a fair use analysis and saving the check list as a record of your effort to conform to the guidelines. 

Although it is faculty’s responsibility to determine fair use and obtain permission, the library will not place items on reserve if the nature, scope or extent of the materials is beyond the reasonable limits of fair use.


Assistant Library Director

Nancy Virgil-Call
Utica College Library

1600 Burrstone Road

Utica, NY 13502-4892

Phone: 315-792-3041