MLA Position Statements and FAQs
Medical Library Association Guidelines for Selecting Copyright Management Options
This statement is intended as a practical guide and should not be
used in place of sound legal advice. The guidelines do not purport to
be a legal statement. Because of the nature of the subject matter, in
which legal rights and liabilities often are dependent upon the specific
facts and circumstances involved, readers are encouraged to consult with
competent legal counsel as appropriate.
This statement is intended to provide librarians with information
to assist in the determination of copyright management services that may
be appropriate for their libraries and institutions. It serves as a companion
to the MLA statement, Copyright
Librarians must be clear about the uses of resources according to Fair
Use clause of the United States Copyright Law (see sections 107 and 108
of the U.S. Copyright
What may individuals copy within fair use?
Individuals may make single copies of articles or small portions of books from the library's collections for their own study or research.
What may the library copy for individuals?
The library may make single copies of articles or small portions of books upon requests by library users.
How do I decide what to do when copying goes beyond fair use?
The provisions of fair use support the needs of users for materials for study and research as well as resource sharing through interlibrary loan (e.g., in-service training, journal clubs, grand rounds, etc.). When librarians have evaluated the four factors provided in section 107 of the copyright law to determine whether the reproduction of copyrighted materials constitutes fair use and have determined that in a certain circumstance the copying would be outside of fair use, there are a number of options to consider. The library might:
- obtain permission from the publisher or copyright holder to make multiple copies,
- purchase copies through the publisher or document delivery service,
- pay royalties directly to the publisher,
- establish a transactional agreement with a rights management company, or
- distribute bibliographies rather than providing materials in full text.
What happens to fair use when an institution has a license for all copying (i.e., copying done outside of the library)?
Blanket licenses Blanket licenses cover all copying, including what is allowed under fair use. If the institution selects to purchase a blanket license, the license should be evaluated to be certain that the institution is not being charged for copying that is permitted under fair use.
Transactional reporting Transactional reporting is designed to help libraries report copying that goes beyond fair use on a case by case basis. Librarians can describe these various differences and choices to their institutional administrators.
Fair use to libraries, to their users, and to individuals in departments
and offices of their organizations is extremely important. Librarians
need to uphold the privileges of fair use provided in the copyright law
and be knowledgeable and authoritative in how to comply with instances
in which the fair use clause does not apply.
Librarians may find additional information on copyright and intellectual
property at the following Internet sites (alphabetical list):
Lucretia W. McClure, MLA Copyright Referent, and Librarian Emerita,
Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester,
For further information, contact Mary
Langman, 312.419.9094 x27.