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Copyright Information and Guidelines

This guide for the Bentley University community presents information on copyright and provides guidance in evaluating the use of copyrighted material in higher education and scholarship.

Traditional or Physical Reserves

Traditional reserves are physical items placed on reserve in the library and made available for students to borrow. They can either be library-owned or instructor-provided with loan periods designated at the discretion of the instructor.



Physical reserve collections can include the following items:

  • Books
  • DVDs or videos
  • Pamphlets
  • Annual reports
  • Government documents
  • Audiobooks
  • Textbooks (personal copies only)

While virtually any item may be placed on reserve, there are a few exceptions. Because of copyright restrictions, the following items cannot be placed on reserve:

  • Commercially-produced workbooks
  • Commercially-produced tests or test booklets
  • Commercially-produced answer sheets
  • Course packs
  • Business cases

In addition, any DVD or videotape placed on reserve must be a commercially produced copy, either owned by the library or an instructor.

Electronic Reserves

Academic libraries have long considered as a central part of its mission to support institutional instruction and learning by providing students access to the materials essential to their studies. Instructors turn to libraries to provide this important service, in most cases by posting requested readings onto a course management system as an extension of tradional reserves commonly called electronic reserves or "e-reserves".

Most course management systems (Blackboard, e-learning) employ a range of measures to ensure that access and control of its content remains restricted to only those who are designated users. Nevertheless, all content appearing on CMS's, whether digitized documents or streaming media, is still subject to copyright law and must undergo a thorough evaluation to ensure copyright compliance. This may include a number of actions, from conducting a fair use analysis to acquiring proper licensing for the use of copyrighted material. As educators, instructors should choose works or portions of works that serve a specific pedagogical purpose and should avoid the use of superfluous material when preparing course work.

Electronic Reserves and Fair Use

In determining the lawful use of copyrighted material for the purposes of making digitized content available to students, there are two distinct but related approaches that will prove useful in making informed decisions. Both utilize the doctrine of fair use as an instrument with which to evaluate the use of copyright-protected content on digital environments and were developed in response to outdated classroom guidelines.   

The first is a set of recommendations developed by the American Library Association that "seeks to capture how institutions are applying fair use in the development of electronic reserves systems". This document was created to address the uncertainty surrounding the recommendations of the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) by clarifying the scope of the copyright law and how it should be applied to the management of electronic reserves.
The second approach, emerging from a survey of library professionals, is a code of best practices in fair use devised specifically by and for the academic and research library community. It identifies eight situations that represent the library community's current consensus about acceptable practices for the fair use of copyrighted materials and describes a carefully derived consensus within the library community about how those rights should apply in certain recurrent situations.

It is strongly recommended that both methods be implemented to determine the best course of action. Both approaches rely on an interpretation of fair use to best meet the needs of educators and scholars and, to that extent, should not be construed as legal advice. If, after the completion of a thorough analysis there remains uncertainty as to the legality of a proposed use, it is recommended that proper licensing and rights options are investigated.


Applying Fair Use in the Development of Electronic Reserves Systems

The following recommendations were developed from a joint effort of and provided courtesy of: The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), The American Library Association (ALA), The Association of College Research Libraries (ACRL), The Medical Library Association (MLA) and The Special Libraries Association (SLA). The factors described below demonstrate a range of considerations when implementing fair use for e-reserves. They also distinguish the approach librarians are entitled to take when determining whether a use is fair from the approach librarians must take when determining whether a use falls within another statutory exemption.

First factor: The character of the use
  • Libraries implement e-reserves systems in support of non-profit education.

Second factor: The nature of the work to be used

  • E-reserve systems include text materials, both factual and creative.
  • They also serve the interests of faculty and students who study music, film, art, and images.
  • Librarians take the character of the materials into consideration in the overall balancing of interests.

Third factor: The amount used

  • Librarians consider the relationship of the amount used to the whole of the copyright owner's work.
  • Because the amount that a faculty member assigns depends on many factors, such as relevance to the teaching objective and the overall amount of material assigned, librarians may also consider whether the amount, even the entire work, is appropriate to support the lesson or make the point.

Fourth factor: The effect of the use on the market for or value of the work

  • Many libraries limit e-reserves access to students within the institution or within a particular class or classes. Many use technology to restrict and/or block access to help ensure that only registered students access the content.
  • Libraries generally terminate student access at the end of a relevant term (semester, quarter, or year) or after the student has completed the course.
  • Many e-reserves systems include core and supplemental materials. Limiting e-reserves solely to supplemental readings is not necessary since potential harm to the market is considered regardless of the status of the material.
  • Libraries may determine that if the first three factors show that a use is clearly fair, the fourth factor does not weigh as heavily.




The 2012 Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

The authors of this document have asserted as a fundamental principle that "it is fair use to make appropriately tailored course-related content available to enrolled students via digital networks". This new approach to applying fair use represents a departure from previous classroom guidelines that many had come to view as too restrictive. Empowering scholars and educators to revisit the doctrine of fair use allows for more practical applications in the fullfillment of instructional needs while still adhering to the legal obligations of the law's original intent. This code proposes the following set of limitations to be considered when using copyrighted works on digital networks to further instructional purposes. Please consult these as you are preparing course material to be placed on Blackboard.

  • Closer scrutiny should be applied to uses of content created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one  at issue (e.g., a textbook, workbook, or anthology designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use.

  • The availability of materials should be coextensive with the duration of the course or other time-limited use (e.g., a research project) for which they have been made available at an instructor's discretion. 

  • Only eligible students and other qualified persons (e.g., professors' graduate assistants) should have access to materials.

  • Materials should be made available only when, and only to the extent that, there is a clear articulable nexus between the instructor's pedagogical purpose and the kind and amount of content involved.

  • Libraries should provide instructors with useful information about the nature and the scope of fair use, in order to help them make informed requests.When appropriate, the number of students with simultaneous access to online materials may be limited.

  • Students should also be given information about their rights and responsibilities regarding their own use of course materials.

  • Full attribution, in a form satisfactory to scholars in the field, should be provided for each work included or excerpted.


Please note that the above are suggested "best practices" based on an interpretation of the fair use doctrine contained within the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. The courts are not beholden to these criteria entirely and the Copyright Act itself does not introduce such codes. It is advisable to always conduct a Fair Use Analysis whenever there is a question regarding the lawful use of copyrighted material. If, after careful evaluation, it is determined that the use of particular material would violate copyright law, or if you need to purchase copyright permissions for such use, please contact Matthew Van Sleet at 781.891.2311 or

More on E-Reserves


Persistent Links

Copying a database link from your browser into Brightspace will render a dynamic, non-static link that will eventually become a dead link. To avoid this, many database providers now offer persistent or stable links to their articles, pages, and other content. Persistent links or URLs are stable links that will consistently direct users to a full-text article contained within a library-subscribed database.

To learn more about static links and how and when to use them, please visit the Static Linking Guide.