Fair Use: A Code of Best Practices for Academic Libraries

A few weeks ago, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the professional association for academic and research libraries (of which the Dartmouth College Library is a member) released the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, a formal set of guidelines to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education.  The Code was developed in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University, and supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Code deals with such common questions in higher education as:

  • When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use? And should video be treated the same way as print?
  • How can libraries’ special collections be made available online?
  • Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

The editors of this new code have identified eight sets of common current practices in the use of copyrighted materials to which the doctrine of fair use can be applied.  For each scenario, it identifies a governing principle that describes generally how and why fair use applies to each situation. Each principle also includes limitations that describe the outer bounds of the consensus and enhancements that list measures that, although not required for a strong fair use case, are above-and-beyond to show good faith. Situations covered include: electronic reserves; publicity and outreach; preservation; digitizing special collections; providing access to disabled students; maintaining institutional repositories; facilitating “non-consumptive” uses of library collections; and creating curated collections of web resources. In the Code of Best Practices, librarians affirm that fair use is available in each of these contexts, providing helpful guidance about the scope of best practice in each.

Sources and further reading:

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