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Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries is a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education. The Code was developed in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University.

In dozens of interviews with veteran research and academic librarians, the researchers learned how copyright law comes into play as interviewees performed core library functions. Then, in a series of small group discussions held with library policymakers around the country, the research team developed a consensus approach to applying fair use.

The Code deals with such common questions in higher education as:

  • When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use? And should video be treated the same way as print?
  • How can libraries’ special collections be made available online?
  • Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

The Code identifies the relevance of fair use in eight recurrent situations for librarians:

  • Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
  • Using selections from collection materials to publicize a library’s activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
  • Digitizing to preserve at-risk items
  • Creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials
  • Reproducing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
  • Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
  • Creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses (including search)
  • Collecting material posted on the web and making it available

In the Code, librarians affirm that fair use is available in each of these contexts, providing helpful guidance about the scope of best practice in each.

Such codes have a powerful effect both in law and practice. “Courts care what affected communities think about fair use and so do the other policymakers and gatekeepers,” noted co-facilitator Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law at American University. “Now librarians are on the record with a powerful statement of their values.”

The development of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries was supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The PDF of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries is a free download. Order print copies from the ARL Publications Distribution Center for $2.00 each plus shipping & handling.

FAQ Documents

Fair Use FAQ for Librarians/General Overview

Fair Use FAQ for Professors

Fair Use FAQ for Students

Videos Related to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries

ARL Member Library Directors on Putting the Code to Work

These seven videos on ARL’s YouTube site include interviews with Tom Leonard, Susan Gibbons, Judy Russell, David Carlson, and Gary Strong, plus clips from interviews with Tom Leonard and Susan Gibbons.

ARL, in conjunction with American University’s Center for Social Media and Washington College of Law, developed a series of informational videos related to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. These videos are hosted on ARL’s YouTube site:

  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use at the New York Public Library
  • Code of Best Practices Interview: Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide
  • Code of Best Practices Interview: Peter Jaszi and Brandon Butler
  • Authors Guild v. HathiTrust: What It Means For Libraries
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use: Rollout Webcast, Jan. 26, 2012
  • Fair Use for Academic and Research Librarians: An Introduction
  • Fair Use FAQ for Librarians
  • UCLA Library Presents: Introducing the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use (Part 1)
  • UCLA Library Presents: Introducing the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use (Part 2)
  • What Does the Georgia State Decision Mean for Libraries? An ARL Briefing with J. Band and B. Butler

The Center for Social Media Vimeo site has 16 videos related to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries.

Additional Information

Chinese Translation of the Code

Know Your Copy Rights: Using Copyrighted Works in Academic Settings

Inside Higher Ed: Defining Fair Use (Feb. 2012)

What If We Asked the Librarians? Or, How The Librarians’ Code Is Different

Further Information on Fair Use and the Best Practices Approach

For more information about the Code and this project, e-mail fairuseproject@arl.org.

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