Standard and Electronic Reserves and Coursepacks

What are the differences between standard/electronic reserves and coursepacks in terms of the Copyright Act?

On a practical basis the difference between standard/electronic reserves and coursepacks is disappearing, but there are still some legal differences.

  1. Standart/electronic reserves can serve a spontaneous, “teachable moment” type of situation which is likely to be granted greater latitude under Fair Use.
  2. Coursepacks are not spontaneous and thus are prone to a less favorable Fair Use analysis. Also course packs are often sold to students which increases the likelihood that they are not subject to the fair use exemptions of the Copyright Act. For additional information refer to Common Scenarios of Fair Use Issues: Copying Works for Classroom Handouts

How Does Fair Use Apply to Course Reserves?

The following are general standards designed to give fair use some practical application in the area of standard/electronic reserves. Instructors and others who are using methods of electronic delivery of materials other than The Libraries standard or electronic reserve system should also consider these standards when evaluating whether their activities fall within fair use guidelines.

Fair use depends on a balancing of four factors outlined in the copyright statutes. These factors may be addressed by a variety of means. Listed below with each factor are some suggestions that may be helpful in conducting fair-use analyses. Because each situation will be different, instructors must also consider other possibilities and weigh them in the balance for each fair-use determination. One need not necessarily take every possible precaution and satisfy all four of the statutory factors; hence, some adjusting of the implementation of the following procedure may still keep your activities within the boundaries of permitted use. For a set of scenarios applying the factors of fair use, see: "Common Scenarios of Fair Use Issues: Posting Materials on Learning Management Systems".

  1. Purpose of the Use
    • Materials should be placed on standard or electronic reserves only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs.
    • Materials should be placed on standard or electronic reserves only at the specific request of the instructor.
    • Access to materials on electronic reserve should be limited by password or other means to deter unauthorized access beyond students enrolled in the specific course for which the materials are needed.
    • Students should not be charged specifically or directly for access to materials placed on electronic reserves, and no person or unit within the Consortium should benefit monetarily from the use of the material.
  2. Nature of the Work
    • Only those portions of the work relevant to the educational objectives of the course should be placed on standard or electronic reserves.
    • The law of fair use applies more narrowly to highly creative works; accordingly, The Libraries may choose not to accept for standard or electronic reserves substantial excerpts from novels, short stories, poetry, modern art images, and other such materials.
    • Instructors should carefully review uses of “consumable” materials such as test forms and workbook pages.
  3. Amount of the Work
    • Materials placed on standard or electronic reserves will generally be limited to brief works or brief excerpts from longer works. Examples: a single chapter from a book, individual articles from a journal, and individual news articles.
    • The amount of the work placed on standard or electronic reserves should be related directly to the educational objectives of the course.
  4. Effect of the Use on the Market for the Original
    • Materials placed on standard and electronic reserves should include a citation to the original source of publication and a form of a copyright notice. The electronic reserve system should also advise users that the materials are made available exclusively for use by students enrolled in the course and must not be distributed beyond that limited group.
    • Access to materials on electronic reserves should be limited by password or other means to deter unauthorized access beyond students enrolled in the specific course for which the specific materials are needed.
    • Standard and electronic reserves should not include any material unless the instructor, the library, or another unit of the educational institution possesses a lawfully obtained copy.
    • Materials on reserve should not include works that are reasonably available and affordable for students to purchase—whether as a book, coursepack, or other format.

Are there alternative methods for information delivery that I should consider?

You may want to consider alternative methods of providing students with materials for various reasons. For instance, some copyright owners may routinely deny permission for their works to be accessible in electronic form, or it may be more effective, both in terms of time and money, to use an alternative delivery system.

  • Providing Links to Materials for Students. Linking to materials already lawfully posted on the internet is often the most efficient method of providing materials to students.
  • Sakai. Sakai gives instructors considerable control over the selection and delivery of materials to students. For more information about applying copyright law to Sakai, see: "Common Scenarios fro Posting Works in Course Management Systems".
  • Traditional Coursepacks. Coursepacks remain a viable option for some instructional needs. They may also be useful if permission to make electronic copies is not available, but permission to make print copies is possible.
  • Requiring Students to Purchase Materials. Don’t overlook the simple option of requiring students to purchase books and other materials that include the reading you need for your courses.