Copyright Basics


If you have any questions, please stop by, email, or call.

Eric Alwine, Reserves Specialist
Library 115

Welcome to copyright basics. As a faculty member at Reed, you will undoubtedly need to request copyright permission for a course from time to time. There are few consistent answers to copyright questions as policies vary by publishers and by type of request. This guide will help you through the process.

Before you request copyright permission for material that you would like to use, you must select the format in which the material will be provided. Below is a comparison chart of advantages and disadvantages of the different formats.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages



  • Students do not have to come to the library for their readings.
  • Access is available 24 hours a day.
  • Many readings can be linked from the library’s electronic resources with no additional permissions costs.
  • E-reserve readings can be linked to a Moodle coursepage
  • If you choose, your syllabus can be posted online or through Moodle with electronic links to each reading.


  • Students have to print out the readings on their own to bring them to class.



  • All of the readings are together in one handy portable bring-it-to-class packet.
  • Readings may be organized in the order that they are to be read.
  • All readings are available at the start of the semester.


  • Students must absorb most of the costs.
  • Permission fees are usually required for articles that may already be available via our e-journal databases. Not all students purchase a copy.
  • The department pays printing costs for copies that are not sold.
  • Coursepacks may not be printed until all permissions have been received.


  • You know your students have the material they need to read.
  • The department is responsible for the cost of printing.

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Almost all readings require copyright permission unless they are in the public domain. The reserves assistant can help you determine whether an item requires permission.

Putting it all together

Coursepacks should not be assembled until all permissions are received. Every reading should display all appropriate attribution, including publisher and date of publication. Most materials also require specific credit lines to be printed in the coursepacks. The Reserves Specialist will contact you with permission status updates, fees, and credit lines. The credit lines may appear either on the first page of each reading or in a table of contents in the front of the coursepack.

The coursepack should be assembled using 8.5 x 11 copies. Take it to the Print Shop with the copyright permission form provided and signed by the Reserves Specialist. Contact your department's administrative assistant if you have any questions about putting the coursepack together.

If you decide not to use an item, please inform the Reserves Specialist so that the permission fee will be canceled and the coursepack price adjusted.

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If the material meets the fair use guidelines or is in the public domain, then permission is not required. If the material does not meet the criteria, then permission is required.

Request copyright permission.

Handouts should not be distributed until permission is received. The Reserves Specialist will contact you with the permissions status, fees, and any required credit lines. If the material requires a specific credit line, it must appear on the first sheet of each handout. Every handout must have the following information printed on it:

  • Book or Journal Title
  • Chapter or Article Title
  • Author(s)
  • Editor(s) if applicable
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication
  • The Phrase "Reproduced with permission from (copyright holder)," if applicable.

If you decide not to use an item, please inform the Reserves Specialist, or the department will be charged the fee.

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Fair Use

United States Code, Title 17, Chapter 1

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of §§ 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by this section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in a particular case is fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is not published shall not in itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made in consideration of all the above factors.


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Public domain for works published in the United States

Works published before 1924 are now in the public domain.

Works published between 1924 and 1977 have varying dates of copyright expiration, depending on renewals. Please ask the Reserves Specialist for help in determining whether the work is in the public domain.

Works created 1-1-1978 and after do not pass into the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. If there are multiple authors, it is based on the longest living author. Works authored by a corporation enter the public domain 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation, whichever is first.

Items published outside the United States may adhere to different guidelines.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which format is the least expensive?

The library budget supports the permission fees for items on e-reserve and for class handouts. Coursepacks are the most expensive for the student because they pay for the costs in the purchase of the coursepack. Permission fees vary greatly, so we can’t predict how expensive an item will be in any particular format.

What if I decide not to use an item?

Please notify the Reserves Specialist anytime an item is not used, or the department will be charged the permissions fees. A processing fee may be charged for canceling the item.

What if I want to switch formats?

If you decide to switch formats, new permissions will need to be sought. Permission is usually given for a particular format. This will take additional time and additional processing fees may be incurred.

If a book is out of print, do I still need permission?

Unless the book is in the public domain, you still need to request permission.

Can I predict if permission will be denied?

It is very hard to predict whether permission will be denied. Avoiding the following will help prevent permission from being denied:

  • Copying more than 25% of a text.
  • Copying from a text that has just been published.
  • Copying from a thrift text or other student edition, designed so that students can afford to purchase it.
  • Copying from an introductory college course textbook.
  • Copying from an anthology.
  • Copying from reference materials.

Do I need to include an ISBN or ISSN in the copyright request?

It is helpful to have ISBNs and ISSNs. Some older books do not have ISBNs, so you do not have to include one. If more than one periodical exists with the same title, then an ISSN is needed.

Can copyright permission be obtained from reprints?

Reprint publishers usually do not hold the copyright. Please request copyright permission using "original sources."

Will the library staff make the copies for my reserve materials or items for my coursepack?

You are responsible for making your own copies. Some departments choose to hire student workers to help with this task.

Is permission still valid for the same materials that I received permission for last time I taught this class?

Permission is typically given for a particular semester, so permission will need to be requested again.

How long does it take to process permission requests for a coursepack?

Allow at least 6 weeks for copyright permissions to be processed before a coursepack can be printed.

Can I use multiple formats for the same material?

Permission is granted for only one format. Due to cost and time constraints, permission will not be sought for additional formats.

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