The mission of academic and research librarians is to enable teaching, learning, and
research.1 Along with serving current faculty, researchers, and students (especially
graduate students), these librarians also serve the general public, to whom academic
and research libraries are often open. Finally, academic and research librarians are
committed to faculty, researchers, and students of the future, who depend on the
responsible collection, curation, and preservation of materials over time.
Copyright law affects the work of academic and research librarians pervasively
and in complex ways, because the great bulk of these librarians’ work deals with
accessing, storing, exhibiting, or providing access to copyrighted material. The rights
of copyright holders create incentives for the publication of important work that
forms the core of library collections, while at the same time constraining academic
and research librarians in the exercise of their mission. Similarly, limitations on
and exceptions to copyright rights enable academic and research librarians to use
copyrighted materials in important ways, but impose limits and responsibilities of
their own.
In addition to specific exceptions for libraries and educators, academic and research
librarians use the important general exemption of fair use to accomplish their
mission. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or
payment under some circumstances, especially when the cultural or social benefits
of the use are predominant. It is a general right that applies even—and especially—
in situations where the law provides no specific statutory authorization for the use
in question. Consequently, the fair use doctrine is described only generally in the
law, and it is not tailored to the mission of any particular community. Ultimately,
determining whether any use is likely to be considered “fair” requires a thoughtful
evaluation of the facts, the law, and the norms of the relevant community.
1. This code was developed by and for academic and research librarians. While some of the ideas and
principles in the code may be helpful to librarians in other contexts, any reference to “librarians” in this
document refers to academic and research librarians, not to all librarians.
January 2012
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