Fair Use in Electronic Reserves

Empire State College does not currently have an electronic reserves service.

What is electronic reserves?

Electronic reserves is a library service offered in some colleges by which course readings are placed in a secure online setting that:

  • allows faculty to request full-text course readings and links to readings (on the Web or in library databases) for a course
  • allows students enrolled in a course to access those readings for the duration of the course
  • prevents anyone outside the course from accessing the readings
  • gives faculty and students different levels of ability to organize and arrange the readings for the course
  • allows librarians to keep track of copyright permissions for readings that require them
  • monitors usage and gathers statistics and analytics.

When do you need permission for using something in electronic reserves?

Permission is required unless the material is:

  • in the Creative Commons or the public domain. 
  • provided as a link to the Web or a library database.

  • fair use. 

When is it fair use? (The Georgia State Case)

Cambridge University Press et al. v. Patton et al. (the Georgia State electronic reserves case) was decided in May 2012. The consensus among legal and copyright experts is that the decision, while subject to appeal and not binding on any institution other than Georgia State, was a game changer that was very positive for fair use in higher education. 

  • You can put up the same item multiple terms in a row and if it was fair use the first time, it continues to be fair use. 
  • Fair use, as always, is judged based on the "four factors" (see Fair Use.) For that third factor, amount and substantiality, Judge Orinda Evans ruled that it is positive if it is a single chapter of a book that is 10 or more chapters long, or 10 percent of a shorter work. (The length of the work includes front matter and indices.) If you use more than that, it still might be fair use, but the other three factors should be positive.
  • This ruling doesn't have much to say about articles, images and multimedia items. You should link to them in a library database if you can. If you can't, look into purchasing a special license. You usually can get permission for articles through the Copyright Clearance Center. (See Get Permission.)

Guidelines for putting materials in electronic reserves:

  • Restrict access to users (students, faculty and staff) involved in the course that is using the materials. 
  • Materials should be directly related to the learning objectives of the course. 
  • Materials should be limited to the amount necessary to achieve those learning objectives. 
  • Materials should be removed when they are no longer needed (although not necessarily at the end of every term). 
  • Materials should be accompanied by complete and accurate citation information and a copyright notice. 
  • Users should be notified that they must not distribute copies of the materials or share their password.