Copyright for Librarians

Picture of bookshelves

Making Copies

Section 108 of copyright law is an exception that allows libraries to reproduce copyrighted materials without permission under certain conditions.  Libraries must meet the following requirements in order to utilize Section 108:

  • The copy must not be made for commercial reasons
  • The library’s collections must be open to the public or the collections must be available not just to researchers at the institution but to any researcher in the relevant field
  • The reproduction must include a copyright notice

If a library meets all of these requirements, they may make one copy of a work except in the situations outlined below.

Section 108 clarifies that libraries may make up to three copies of an unpublished work for the purposes of preservation.  The library must lawfully own a copy of the work and must still meet the requirements listed above. If digital copies are made, those copies can only be made available on the library premise.

Up to three copies can be made of lost, damaged, or deteriorating, materials, or works that are stored on obsolete formats provided that an unused copy of the work cannot be obtained at a fair price. Again, these copies must meet the guidelines from above and digital copies can only be made available within the library.

User Copies
A single article or small portion of a longer work may be copied for a user as long as it is not for commercial use and the library has a prominent copyright notice posted both where users place copy orders and on the order form.  Under the same conditions, an entire work can be copied for a user if the library determines that a new copy cannot be obtained at a fair price.

Copyright Signs

Section 108 establishes that libraries have limited liability if a patron uses library equipment (scanner, copy machine, etc.) to violate copyright law as long as the library posts a notice on the equipment. Similar signs should be posted if there is a place where librarians take orders for making copies.  See this Copyright Notices at Libraries document to see the exact wording that the law requires.

Copyright Advocacy

It is important to become an advocate for balanced copyright law. You can keep yourself informed about copyright law through the ALA website.  As an advocate, maintain a dialog with politicians to remind them that fair use and other copyright topics are important to you and to your users. You can also use the resources and tools on this site to educate others.

Photo at top by CCAC North Library