MLA Position Statements and FAQs
Medical Library Association Copyright Management Guidelines
Copyright management, including interpretation of the scope of fair
use under the copyright law and arranging appropriate royalty payments,
has become an increasingly important responsibility for health sciences
librarians. Institutional guidance is often sought from librarians related
to general institutional copying, library copying, and special purpose
copying for inservice training, continuing medical education activities,
journal clubs, and other activities. The focus of these guidelines is
primarily on copying of paper materials, but the basic principles also
apply to reproduction of digital materials.
MLA Copyright Management Guidelines 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.
Rights and Responsibilities
- Section 107 of the United
States federal copyright statute codifies the conditions under which
copying is considered to be fair use and not an infringement of copyright.
For example, individuals may, under certain circumstances, make copies
of copyrighted materials for criticism and news reporting, for their
own scholarship, and for research. Section 108 further clarifies the
exemptions as they apply specifically to library copying. Publishers
and producers may not unilaterally restrict exemptions in Section 107
and 108 of the Copyright Law. Fair use rights, however, may be overridden
by specific licensing agreements, including agreements with rights management
- The National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyright Works
(CONTU) Guidelines provide specific guidelines (e.g., the "Rule of Five")
to help librarians determine how much copying may be done within the
scope of fair use for interlibrary loan, library reserves, and classroom
use. While the CONTU Guidelines are not part of the law, they are referenced
with approval in the legislative history, and librarians should follow
the CONTU Guidelines when establishing policies and procedures for library
- Any copying that is done by the institution in circumstances that
cause the institution to question whether either of the Section 107
and Section 108 exemptions apply potentially constitutes an infringement
of copyright, and the institution has a legal responsibility to insure
that appropriate permissions are secured and, if required, royalties
Beyond Fair Use: Options for Copyright Management
The fair use provisions of the Copyright Law are expansive and vitally
important to the library community. These provisions support resource
sharing through interlibrary loan and other important library services.
When librarians have evaluated the four factors provided in Section 107
of the law to determine whether the reproduction of copyrighted materials
constitutes fair use , and have concluded that the
situation would not likely be deemed a fair use, there are a number of
copyright management options, including:
- obtaining permission and making payments directly to the copyright
owner (typically the publisher or author); and
- obtaining permission and making payments indirectly to the copyright
owner through a third party that already has secured the applicable
rights for sublicensing, e.g., (a) from document delivery services such
as ISI Document Solution, BioMed Net, and Carl Uncover; and (b) from
rights management organizations such as the Copyright Clearance Center,
Inc. (CCC) and others that provide licensing systems for the reproduction
and distribution of copyrighted materials.
Some options may offer librarians the opportunity to establish transactional
or blanket licensing agreements. Transaction reporting services are designed
to help libraries report copying that goes beyond fair use, and with a
single payment, insure that royalties are distributed to the appropriate
rights holders. Blanket licenses may eliminate transaction record keeping;
however, librarians must insure that fair use is protected and not overlooked
or overidden by the licensing agreement. A joint library association statement,
for Licensing Electronic Resources, provides a checklist of principles
that librarians should consider when negotiating license agreements.
Choosing a Copyright Management Option
All of the methodologies mentioned above offer librarians viable options
for managing the reproduction of copyrighted materials that fall outside
the scope of fair use. Choosing the best option will depend on the nature
and volume of copying done. Large institutions with diverse copying needs
ranging from multiple coursepacks for the university's medical school
to extensive electronic reserve collections will undoubtedly want to investigate
rights management companies. Other institutions in which incidental copying
is done for the occasional journal club may find it more efficient and
cost-effective to employ other management options.
- Rights management companies such as the Copyright Clearance Center,
Inc. (CCC) provide a variety of services to assist libraries in managing
copyright and paying appropriate royalties when copying exceeds the
fair use guidelines. For publishers registered with a rights management
company, an appropriate transaction fee can be paid to allow a variety
of uses such as production of print and electronic coursepacks and reserves,
and distributing copyrighted materials in newsletters and on Internet
- Retention of the fair use protections of the Copyright Law is an important
consideration when reviewing the license agreements with rights management
- Does the langauge of the license exempt fair use copying, or does
it override the fair use provisions of the Copyright Law? and,
- Does the method of estimating the amount of copying in the institution
effectively take into account copying that meets the fair use guidelines?
- In situations where occasional copying falls outside the scope of
fair use, librarians may find it efficient to request permission directly
from the publisher or author and make royalty payments directly to the
rights holder. The written permissions request to reproduce a copyrighted
work normally includes the following information:
- Exact title, author and/or editor, and edition of the item to
- For text materials--page numbers, chapter numbers, and possibly
a photocopy of the beginning of the portion to be used; for visuals--specify
- If transferring materials into another format, give the reasons
for the change
- Number of copies to be made; and
- Whether the use is limited for specific time periods, and the
form of distribution and disposal (e.g., reserve collection, classroom).
- Fee-based document delivery services such as ISI Document Solution,
UnCover, and BioMed Net, provide access to copyrighted works such as
current journal articles, conference proceedings and papers, book chapters,
government reports, annual reports, standards, and monographs. These
companies provide online listings of holdings, and offer clients delivery
of full-text through a variety of routes including fax, e-mail, etc.
Services include royalty payments to rights holders and may offer an
efficient alternative to other copyright management options.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Passage of the DMCA
in 1998 has raised many questions for librarians. It is important to remember
that the DMCA applies primarily to specific conditions regarding copyright
of materials that are produced and disseminated through electronic media.
It does not supersede the copyright law, which remains format neutral.
While many uncertainties remain in the electronic realm, the rules governing
copying of print remain stable. Fair use principles and the CONTU guidelines
Librarians have always been at the pivotal point of copyright, and must
continue to exercise leadership in this area to insure that appropriate
permissions are secured from and, if appropriate, royalties are provided
to rights holders, while protecting the fair use principles that are crucial
to the advancement of scholarship and knowledge.
 Medical Library Association. The copyright law and the health sciences
librarian. Chicago, 1989:A-1.
 Medical Library Association. The copyright law and the health sciences
librarian. Chicago, 1989:8.
Librarians may find additional information on copyright and intellectual
property at the following Internet sites (alphabetical list):
T. Scott Plutchak, Editor, Bulletin of the Medical Library Association,
and Director, Lister Hill Library, University of Alabama, Birmingham,
Logan Ludwig, Ph.D., Chair-designate, MLA Governmental Relations
Committee, and Associate Dean of Library and Telehealth Services, Loyola
University Stritch School of Medicine Maywood, IL.
Lucretia W. McClure, MLA Copyright Referent, and Librarian Emerita,
Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester,
Mary M. Langman, Manager of Information Issues and Policy, Medical
Library Association, Chicago, IL.
For further information, contact Mary
Langman, 312.419.9094 x27.