Instructional sharing, including scanning and delivery of book excerpts

The University supports sharing resources with students using a variety of platforms, including UVACanvas. Scanning and delivery of excerpts from books and other library materials is governed by US copyright law. Course instructors are responsible for determining whether their requests are consistent with the law. This information should help you as you make that determination.

In a nutshell:

You can share material on your course site in UVACanvas if:

  • you are the author and you own copyright or retained a license to share your work in this way (be careful—you may have transferred all your rights to a publisher!),
  • the work is in the public domain,
  • you link to a resource in the Library’s electronic collections, such as a journal article or e-book,
  • you link to publicly available materials posted to legitimate sites online,
  • the material is made available under an open license (such as CC-BY),
  • your use is a fair use, or
  • you have permission from the copyright holder.

Library policy permits sharing materials scanned from library materials pursuant to fair use. You are the best judge of whether your use is a fair use, but we provide some information below to help you navigate copyright and, if need be, make your own fair use determination.

While the law is generally flexible and sensitive to context, there are two categories of material that are virtually never OK to scan and place in electronic reserve:
  • Commercial textbooks, or textbook-like material, that is still in publication and/or available for purchase
  • Commercially available consumables, such as workbooks.

Public domain, licenses, linking, permissions, and works whose copyrights you own

In some circumstances, such as when materials are in the public domain (works that are very old and certain works of the federal government), you can use items freely without concern for copyright. Works published in the US more than 95 years ago are in the public domain; unpublished works and works published abroad, or fewer than 95 years ago in the US, are more complex. Cornell’s Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States is a handy resource to help you determine what’s in the public domain.

In other circumstances, the library may already subscribe to an electronic version of the book or article. Often we can make these resources available to unlimited numbers of students for free. Ask a librarian for help if you’d like to use licensed resources in teaching and you aren’t sure what’s possible.

When materials are publicly available online from a legitimate source, or as part of a library subscription, you can use a link to point students to that resource. Wherever possible, linking is strongly preferable to scanning print materials or posting PDFs. Linking to legitimate electronic copies is easier, cheaper, and raises few copyright concerns. For journals, it helps us keep track of which titles are used most frequently, ensuring we don’t cancel titles that are popular in teaching. In some cases (but not all), our agreements with journals require linking rather than sharing PDFs. Librarians can help you determine what kinds of sharing are allowed for library electronic resources.

In still others, it may be necessary to seek permission and pay a license fee to make and distribute copies from books. If you think you need to seek permission, the library may be able to help. We have assembled some permissions resources with a particular emphasis on images, as well as some handy places to find free images and other content.

If you are the author of a work, you may be able to publish and share it if you have retained the necessary rights. However, you should keep several caveats in mind:

  • If your work was published in a book, journal, or other third-party outlet, you may have transferred your copyright to the publisher. In that case, you’ll need to look at your publishing contract to see whether you retained any rights to use the work. The SHERPA/RoMEO site provides easy access to the standard publishing contracts of most major journal publishers. Your contract tells you which versions of your works you can share, with whom, and when. (If you want to retain your rights next time, or publish your work open access, the Library can help.)
  • Even if you didn’t transfer copyright, you may have granted an exclusive license to the publisher to publish the work (or a particular version of your work) in a given context or for a certain time period. Again, you will need to look at your contract to determine what rights you retain.

Fair use

Where scanning in-copyright print materials is required for teaching, it can be done freely without permission if it is a fair use. Fair use is a limitation on copyright favoring socially beneficial uses, including education. However, not every educational use is fair; the determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The UVA Library respects the fair use rights of instructors who assign excerpts from library materials, and library best practices recognize the importance of fair use to teaching. As the instructor for the course, you are in the best position to decide whether your particular use is fair. We will rely on your determination in fulfilling your request.

We are currently developing fair use guidelines grounded in the latest legal developments. In the meantime, please consult the Texas A&M Guidelines, which are clear, concise, and up to date. As a rule of thumb, the Library Instructional Scanning Services department is generally willing to scan a single chapter from a book or a single article from a journal issue as a presumptively fair use.