Library Reserves

Libraries have utilized and managed reserve collections for many years. Originally these collections housed original volumes that were removed from the circulating collection so that they could serve more patrons by using a short restricted borrowing period. Over time, faculty members began to request that books and periodical volumes be placed on course reserves. These activities raised no copyright concerns because the library was not reproducing the works. With the advent of the photocopier, libraries had the ability to substitute photocopies of book chapters and articles for the original book or journal volume in the reserve collection. This raised copyright issues because now the library was reproducing materials for course reserves.

Section 108 of the Copyright Act is silent about reproducing for library reserves, perhaps because course reserves are an adjunct to the classroom. Therefore, library reserves are a section 107 fair use issue. At the request of librarians, in 1982 the American Library Association produced the Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve Use (Model Policy), which offered guidelines for libraries with regard to photocopy reserve collections (Reserve Guidelines).[1]

In recent years many libraries have replaced print reserves with electronic reserve (e-reserve) collections that contain scanned copies of the same material that in the past had been photocopied for reserve. Additionally, audiovisual works and sound recordings may be represented in reserve collections, and some libraries make them available to users by streaming. Photographs and other images may also be considered for e-reserves.

This chapter addresses issues such as whether libraries must own copies of the items that they reproduce for reserves or whether they may accept a faculty member's personal copy; textbooks on reserve; copying faculty-produced materials for the reserve collection; the difference between course packs and copying for reserve; and e-reserves, including linking to licensed products to which the library subscribes. Whether the TEACH Act, section 110(2), is relevant for library e-reserves is also covered.

May a library place on reserve a copy of a journal issue that is personally owned by a faculty member? If so, may it remain on reserve for multiple semesters?

Yes. If a copy of the journal issue is owned either by the library or by a faculty or staff member, it may be placed on reserve indefinitely. Putting an original copy on reserve does not implicate copyright in any way since the library is not reproducing the work for reserve; it is only reproductions that raise copyright concerns. If it is a photocopy that is being placed on reserve, whether personally owned by a faculty member or made by the library, it is a reproduction and permission should be sought for use after the first term it is on reserve for that faculty member.

An academic library is trying to get copyright clearance for a 1925 article to put on reserve for students. The journal is out of print and the publisher has disappeared. Is it safe to put the article on reserve without copyright clearance?

Most libraries do not seek permission to put copies of works, (i.e., reproductions) on reserve for use the first semester or term. For subsequent semesters, they do seek permission based on the Reserve Guidelines from the 1982 ALA Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve (see htm). Assuming that this is use in subsequent semesters, the following applies.

The article may still be protected by copyright. The journal publisher copyright holder received 28 years of protection, so the work was protected through 1953. In 1953, the publisher could apply for a renewal of copyright. If it did so, the copyright would have been renewed for an additional 28 years, or until 1981. If that renewal occurred, the journal would be protected until 2020 because the term was expanded to 95 years after first publication by the Copyright Act of 1976 and its subsequent amendments. If the 1953 renewal did not occur, the journal is now in the public domain and no permission is necessary. (See section 304(b) of the Copyright Act.) The Copyright Office records can answer whether the copyright was renewed in 1953.

After the library has done all that it can to determine whether the work is still protected and to locate a copyright owner, then the library must do a risk assessment. What is the risk of liability for placing a photocopy of a 1925 article on reserve when the journal is defunct and the publisher has disappeared? While the risk in this situation surely is very low, the best solution is to consult university counsel in order to make this decision.

A faculty member brought copies of music CDs that he owns to the library and has asked to put them on reserve for his class. These are not purchased copies of original CDs but rather are reproduced copies. The library does not own the CDs in question. The library does not seek to copy or stream the CDs but only to place the copies on reserve. Is it permissible to put copies of works on reserve that the library does not own?

Under the ALA Reserve Guidelines from the Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve Use (see ALA-modelpolicy.htm), either the library or the faculty member should own a copy of the item placed on reserve. The complicating factor here is that the faculty member's copies are not legitimate copies. If they were, then placing them on reserve for use by his students would be no problem. The fact that the CDs are reproduced makes it a more difficult issue for the library. Perhaps the faculty member had permission to copy the CDs, but that is not clear. The library then is faced with a dilemma. Does it adopt a policy that all works placed on reserve must be owned by the library, or permit faculty-owned copies and occasional copies from interlibrary loan on reserve? Further, if it accepts faculty-owned copies for reserve, must these be legitimate copies?

  • [1] See American Library Association, Model Policy Concerning College and University Photocopying for Classroom, Research and Library Reserve Use (1982), reprinted in 43 Coll. & Res. Libr. News 127 (1982). Reserve Guidelines available at
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