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Intellectual Property and Copyright

Copyright Law

Knowledge of copyright is essential for health sciences librarians and those who use the library and its resources. MLA supports the purpose of the copyright law to balance the rights of copyright holders with the rights of users.  

The following links provide information on topics of interest to health sciences librarians.

Fair Use

The principles of fair use provide exceptions to Section 107 of the Copyright Law, which allow for reasonable use of a work without permission for scholarship, teaching, and research. MLA believes that health professionals, educators, students, and the public have the right to use the literature as defined in the fair use clause of the federal copyright law. MLA supports and advocates fair-use practices and urges its members to uphold these rights by becoming familiar with the copyright law and by informing users of their rights and obligations. 

  • The Copyright Law and the Health Sciences Librarian 
    This publication is a practical, user-friendly guide written in Q&A format, and has been updated for today's digital environment. It addresses questions related to digitization, scanning, downloading, electronic distribution, and more. Members only (you will need your user ID and password to access this document).

First Sale Doctrine

The first sale doctrine provides a secondary market for the distribution of copyrighted products without permission from the copyright owner. MLA supports the first sale doctrine because it allows libraries to lend materials to users.

Orphan Works

Orphan works are generally defined as copyrighted works where the author or owner cannot be identified or located. Because the law is unclear about the rights of libraries to use and digitize orphan works, MLA supports legislative reform to this problem that would make these materials more widely available.

Section 108

Section 108 provides exceptions for libraries and archives to make and distribute copies of works under certain circumstances including preservation for archival purposes and interlibrary loan without permission from the copyright owner. MLA supports efforts to update Section 108 to balance the rights of copyright owners and users in the digital environment.


Visit the following web sites for more information about copyright law and library practices: