Copyright and Fair Use For Reserves

General information

  • Electronic Reserves are an extension of traditional library services and will be provided in a manner that respects fair use rights, the rights of copyright holders, and current copyright law.
  • The placing of a published copyrighted item on electronic reserve is a secondary alternative to providing the material through full text databases and electronic books purchased by the Libraries.

Fair use

  • Copyright law balances the intellectual property interests of authors, publishers and copyright owners with society’s need for the free exchange of ideas.
  • The Libraries policy for electronic reserve is derived from the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. Section 107 permits making multiple copies for classroom use without payment of royalty or permission from the copyright holders.
  • The fair use provision of the Copyright Act allows reproduction and other uses of copyrighted works under certain conditions for purposes such as criticism, teaching, scholarship or research.
  • Section 107 of the Copyright Act gives four factors used to determine whether use of a copyrighted work is “fair use”:
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.


The University of Houston Libraries will seek copyright permission as needed, pay any reasonable publisher’s fees, and post appropriate copyright notices.

If instructors place materials on their own Web sites, they are responsible for obtaining copyright permission and paying royalties when fair use does not apply. The Libraries reserve the right to limit the number of items on reserve for a given course based on copyright constraints, royalty costs, etc.

The Libraries will post copyrighted materials while waiting for permission. Should permission be denied, the instructor will be notified and material removed from electronic reserve 7 days after notification. Should the copyright holder not respond, the Libraries will resubmit the request with each use for 2 years. Non-response will be documented and use of material will continue.

How the Libraries handles copyright and fair use

Electronic copying and scanning of copyright-protected works for library reserve systems and distance learning are unsettled areas of the law that may be addressed in future revisions of the copyright law or through adjudication. The University of Houston Libraries will monitor legal developments concerning fair use to ensure that the libraries services are in compliance with U.S. Copyright Law.

The following material will be placed in the UH Libraries Electronic Reserves without obtaining copyright permission:

  • Exams, exam keys, and homework solutions
  • Lecture notes
  • Student papers (instructors must submit permission from the student)
  • U.S. Government publications
  • Material within the public domain
  • One article from a journal issue not owned by UH Libraries
  • One chapter from a print book not owned by UH Libraries
  • During the semester a total of two chapters or 20% of any one work owned by the University of Houston Libraries may be made available electronically as long as only one chapter or 10% of an item is available at one time.
  • One short story, short essay or short poem
  • One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture from a book or periodical
  • A short excerpt (not to exceed 10 percent of the total) of a work which is not divided into chapters or articles
  • Material for which the instructor owns the copyright

Where there is not an indication of permission from the copyright holder, copyright permission will be sought when:

  • Materials will be used repeatedly by the same instructor for the same or similar course
  • Multiple articles from one journal issue are needed for a particular course
  • Multiple chapters from one book are needed for a particular course. (More than 2 chapters or 20% of a book owned by UH Libraries, or more than 1 chapter or 10% of a book not owned by UH Libraries.)
  • Multiple charts, graphs, diagrams, drawings, cartoons or pictures from a book or periodical
  • An out-of-print book is needed