Note: This blog has been updated to reflect the fact that the eReserves service within the University Libraries has been discontinued.

Copyright touches many library services because we collect, share and loan original works fixed in a wide variety of tangible media. The Copyright Resources Center conducted a series of informational interviews with faculty and staff from various areas of The Ohio State University Libraries to discuss the ways in which they engage with copyright issues. This blog series documents those conversations, and highlights how copyright law helps to shape services provided by the Libraries. See all available posts in the series here.

The Ohio State University Libraries previously provided an eReserves service to assist instructors with uploading supplementary course readings to Carmen (the learning management system used at OSU). Terry Camelford, the Program Coordinator for eReserves, met with me to discuss her team’s work and how they navigated the copyright issues related to eReserves.

As part of the former eReserves service, Terry and the eReserves team helped instructors navigate options for uploading content to Carmen and comply with copyright. Instructors submitted an eReserves Request Form with the readings they would like added to their course on Carmen.  eReserves staff reviewed the materials for copyright compliance and added the items that were in compliance to Carmen on the instructor’s behalf.

Some items could be added as links to a digital version in the Libraries’ catalog so that students could legally access the material using their own login credentials. For copyrighted materials that were not available digitally through the Libraries’ subscriptions, Terry and her team evaluated whether creating and providing a scanned copy in Carmen could fall within fair use.

Fair use is the most flexible of the statutory exceptions included in the U.S. Copyright Law, and is based on a fact specific analysis of four factors:

  1. the purpose and character of the use;
  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.

The first two factors often favored fair use in the context of eReserves due to the educational purpose of supplemental course readings and the frequently factual nature of the assigned materials. Factor three does not set any specific limits on what amount of a work is acceptable to use under fair use, although using less of a work or only the amount necessary have been found to favor fair use. Lastly, eReserves were not meant to replace course materials that students would otherwise purchase; instructors were asked to submit supplemental course readings only.

Terry and her team had a system in place to help facilitate the fair use analysis for each item given the massive volume of requests they processed at the beginning of each semester. Terry put it this way, “Everything we do has to go through a copyright evaluation, but it has to be done fast!” Still, Terry and her team recognized that fair use is flexible and not bound by specific limits; eReserves and the Copyright Resources Center worked together to evaluate potentially problematic requests, and worked with instructors as needed to strengthen the fair use argument for providing material (such as reducing the amount used).

While the eReserves service has been discontinued (no new requests will be accepted or processed following the Summer 2016 term), instructors may continue to independently upload reading assignments to Carmen for their students to access. However, uploading PDFs of excerpts and/or entire works could be infringing copyright unless:

  • the work is in the public domain;
  • the work is available under an open license (such as Creative Commons) and the instructor’s use complies with the license terms; or
  • the instructor’s use could fall under fair use.

This blog has presented a snapshot of the impact copyright has on just one area of the Libraries. Copyright affects libraries and higher education in a multitude of ways, often with idiosyncrasies particular to various subjects and disciplines. Additional posts in this series explore other instances in which copyright affects library services and collections; you can see all available posts in the series here.



Original post by Jessica Chan, Rights Management Specialist at the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries

Updated content by Maria Scheid, Rights Management Specialist and Sandra Enimil, Head of the Copyright Resources Center, The Ohio State University Libraries