Just to verify that this is totally illegal

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  • If a librarian in a special library were to go a university library and print out an article from an online database and then include that print out in their collection, that would be infringing on copyright, correct?
  • I would not want to say that this is absolutely an infringement in all cases, but this is not a practice that I would recommend.

    I can imagine situations that may be legal. For instance, if the librarian is responding to a teacher's standard assignment that requires students to read a classic article, I think this might count as fair use. I think the fair use argument is stronger if the article is from a single electronic reference source instead of a periodical database. If the librarian just happens to come across an article that she thinks would be a good addition to the collection, I think the fair use argument is less compelling.

    In any case, I think the potential for abuse is extremely high and I don't recommend this practice.
  • A lot seems to depend here on the license terms under which the university library subscribed to the database. Most such licenses include walk-in visitors as authorized users, and they allow authorized users to print copies of single articles; certainly my university will not accept a database license without these terms. Subsequently placing such an authorized copy into a library collection does not appear to infringe any of the exclusive rights of a copyright holder. It is possible, however, that the license terms of the database specify the uses for which a user may print articles. In such a case the special librarian, though not a party to the license herself, may create potential contractual liability for the subscribing library.

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