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Copyright Exemptions for Libraries

Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Act offers certain exemptions to libraries, creating something of an extension of the fair use provisions in limited cases.

  • Libraries and archives may make up to three copies (in analog or digital format) of any unpublished work for purposes of preservation and security or for deposit in another repository for research purposes. These copies cannot be made available outside the library or archives, cannot involve a profit motive, and must include a copyright notice.
  • Libraries and archives may make up to three copies (in analog or digital format) of a published work but only in order to replace a copy from the library's collection when the original is damaged, deteriorating, lost, stolen, or in an obsolete format, and when an unused replacement copy cannot be obtained at a fair price.
  • If digital copies are made, they may not be distributed outside the library. In other words, a DVD (digital) copy of an analog videotape may not be sent out for interlibrary loan, etc. Only another videotape copy can be distributed.
  • Libraries and archives generally may digitize and make freely available any published work that is within the last twenty years of its copyright protection.
  • Libraries and archives may provide users with copies (in analog or digital format) of a small portion of many types of works in response to requests made for purposes of private study, research, or scholarship. There are limitations to this exemption, particularly with respect to audiovisual materials. It may be permissible to copy and distribute a larger proportion (or all) of the work if another physical copy (new or used) cannot be purchased at a reasonable price.

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Disclaimer: This site presents copyright guidelines and resources but should not be considered legal advice.