Copley Library

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Electronic Reserves Copyright Guidelines

Overview| Guidelines| Contacts


The University of San Diego expects all members of the University community to respect and comply with copyright law (Title 17 of the United States Code). The principles of copyright law govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions or adaptations of copyrighted material. The making of an electronic copy of a copyrighted work by any means (e.g. scanning, digitizing, etc.) constitutes reproduction that is governed by copyright law.

The copyright principles that apply to materials posted electronically through the electronic reserves system are the same as those that apply to printed course materials. The reproduction or copying of a work subject to copyright protection typically requires the permission of the copyright owner. If permission would be required for the use of printed course materials, it will be required for an analogous electronic use.

The digital age has made it possible for course content to be available in a wide variety of ways, and instructors often can choose among several different formats to make materials available to students. If it is possible to link to material that is publicly available on the web or available to the University of San Diego community through a database licensed by the library, further permission is not needed.

Similarly, a work can be used without obtaining permission when the work is in the public domain under the copyright law. For example, a work may fall into the public domain upon the expiration of its copyright term. In addition, works prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties are not subject to copyright protection and are in the public domain. A work also may be freely used if it is offered under a Creative Commons license.

For other works, use still may be possible without permission of the copyright owner if the contemplated use of the material constitutes a “fair use” under copyright law. To determine whether “fair use” might apply, the following four factors must be considered and weighed:

  • The purpose and character of the use;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

No one factor – including nonprofit educational use – is determinative of whether a given use is “fair use.” “Fair use” requires a fact-specific analysis that should be considered carefully whenever deciding whether or not permission is required.


The Access and Outreach Services Department is responsible for maintaining the electronic reserves system in the Copley Library. The Circulation Department in the Pardee Legal Research Center is responsible for maintaining the electronic reserves system for the School of Law. The following guidelines apply to the electronic reserves system:

All electronic reserves materials will only be for the non-commercial, educational use by University of San Diego students enrolled in the particular course for which the materials are posted.

Instructors are required to use passwords, ID numbers, or other appropriate means to limit access to copyrighted content on the electronic reserves system to students enrolled in the course or other individuals requiring access to the course materials for purposes of conducting the course. The availability of such content to students should terminate when the students have completed the course. A unique password is to be created and used each semester for each course.

  • No one should post course content consisting of copyrighted works or portions of such works in electronic form without first either:

    ------ obtaining the permission of the copyright owner or

    ------ including, after reasonable inquiry, that the use qualifies as a fair use or other exempt or licensed use for which permission is not required.

  • Before posting course content consisting of copyrighted works or portions of such works in electronic form, the instructor should consult with library staff or the department’s librarian liaison to determine whether the University has a current license for access to digital versions of the copyrighted material. If it does, the citation and link to the electronic version of the material will be added to the course page to provide direct access to the requested material.
  • It is preferable to link to copyrighted materials already legally available at another site rather than scanning or making a digital copy.
  • Course materials owned by the instructor, such as syllabi, lecture notes, or exams, may be copied and distributed electronically to students enrolled in the course through the electronic reserves system.
  • The electronic distribution of consumable copyrighted works, such as workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, test booklets and answer sheets, requires permission from the copyright owner.
  • Copies of copyrighted works, regardless of their format, should include proper attribution and copyright notices.
  • Generally, electronic course content may be included in the electronic reserves system without obtaining permission and is likely to be considered fair use if it is the first time the material is utilized by the instructor for the course, and the request does not exceed these guidelines:

    ------ One chapter (or equivalent) from a book

    ------ One journal or newspaper article (or equivalent)

    ------ An excerpt from a prose work that does not exceed more than 10% of the work

    ------ One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per journal issue

Additional or continued use also may constitute fair use, but each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether fair use applies to the contemplated use.

  • Copyrighted materials will not be placed on the electronic reserves system without permission if the nature, scope or extent of copying is judged by the appropriate library to exceed the reasonable limits of fair use. The appropriate library will obtain any required permissions or will inform the faculty member when doing so is not feasible.
  • At the end of each semester, all copyrighted material in the electronic reserve database will be removed from access.

For more information about electronic reserves, please contact:

Copley Library
Access and Outreach Services
Christopher Marcum, (619) 260-5973

Pardee Legal Research Center
Circulation Department

For more information about copyright, please see the university’s copyright webpage at

(Approved by Copyright Task Force – Spring 2012)