Best Practices for Course Readings

Occasionally the Library gets asked about course readings and copyright. There is an assumption that all course readings used for classes are protected under the doctrine of fair use. Unfortunately copyright challenges by publishers are looked at on a case by case basis and the doctrine of fair use is vague.

In general fair use looks at four factors:

  1. Purpose and character – Is the use profitmaking or commercial vs. not-for-profit educational purposes?
  2. Nature of the work – Use of more expressive or creative works is more likely to be ruled a violation of copyright.
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion relative to the whole – If using a substantial portion of the book it should be purchased. There is no rule.
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work – Related to the above. Should students be purchasing the book instead? Would they? Is it still available for purchase? Does it effect the publisher’s bottom line?

Some best practices to avoid a copyright challenge:

  1. When the library has a subscription or access to a resource, the library should be used for course readings – and articles should be posted as LINKS rather than uploading PDFs whenever possible. Most of our licenses do not allow uploading of PDFs of articles to which we subscribe. See below for information regarding creation of links.
  2. If the library does not have  a subscription or electronic access, it should be requested that the library consider a purchase. The library places priority on materials that will be used in courses and within reason such purchases will be accepted.
  3. Use only one chapter of a book or segment of a publication or work.
  4. If you are using the same copied item in repeated semesters, you may want to consider seeking permission from the publisher.
  5. Consider whether you can restate in your own words the material in the chapter.
  6. Seek good open access or public domain sources of information.
  7. Seek permission for free use from the publisher.
  8. Pay royalty fees.
  9. Include a copyright statement on copied items so students are aware that the item is subject to copyright.

Link to full text instead of uploading PDFs:

  1. Your librarian liaison will be happy to work with you to provide links to full text of course readings where available.
  2. If you want to supply your own links, we recommend, where available, using the BrowZine link. BrowZine is an online current awareness tool providing journal tables of contents and working links. The benefit of using the BrowZine links is they will prompt users to log in.
  3. Here’s how:
    1. Go to BrowZine on Library Home page. As of this writing, there is a box for it right in the center of the page. Or use this link: 
    2. Browse to the journal, issue, and/or article you want to link to.
    3. Using an article as example, hover over article title, right click on mouse, and select “Copy link address.”
    4. That’s the link you will then paste into your course materials and on your course pages.
    5. (With BrowZine you can also create a collection of your favorite journals, discover new journals, and/or browse newly added articles and TOCs.)

Note: Another benefit of using links is that the Library has evidence of usage of the title. Usage is very important when we are making decisions about journals to keep or cut. If you have 200 students reading a journal that is important to you, you definitely want us to know that.



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