Poster Images in Online Catalog?

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  • This may be very similar to the questions posed regarding the use of book covers on library websites, but I am curious as to what the answer might be to my particular situation. Our library holds approximately 1,200 posters that are available for circulation. Many of these have been taken from teacher magazines (inserts that were torn out and then laminated, cataloged, and made available for use by our teachers) or are promotional posters for books that were made available to librarians / teachers (generally those given away at conferences). Earlier cataloging activities provided very little information about each poster, so we have been updating this information, adding subject headings for easier searching, and even providing some "tags" for younger users to search the catalog to locate them.

    In order to help our patrons in selecting what posters might be useful for use in the classroom, we began taking photographs of the individual posters and then reducing the photographs to a thumbnail image for inclusion in our online catalog (similiar to a book cover image). However, I have been advised by other librarians that this is a violation of copyright unless I receive permission from the publisher / photographer for the use of the images in our catalog. I was under the impression that because this is being made available for use by educators to use within the classroom and because the images are thumbnail size (much too small to be used for reproduction purposes), that this would be considered "fair use." Because all of the information regarding the poster is included within the entry (record) within the catalog, it also seems that proper citation is included to allow others to locate those posters for purchase for their own personal use, if needed.

    Would I be correct in my assessment that providing a thumbnail image of a poster would be considered fair use or should I secure the permission of the publishers for each of these posters in order to promote their availability within our library and their use by educators?
  • ShondaB,

    It sounds like you have evaluated 2 of the four Fair Use Factors: purpose of the use and amount used.
    As you have pointed out, Factor #1 weighs in favor of fair use because the purpose is to enhance search and retrieval by educators looking for materials for classroom use. Factor #3 also weighs in favor of Fair Use because, as you point out, the reduced size of the digitized images preclude their use in making new copies of the posters. Making the images low resolution would also help in your Fair Use calculation.

    But what about the second and fourth factors? Are these creative works subject to commercial exploitation? and Is there a way to get permission readily?

    Once you have weighed all four factors in good faith, you need to have confidence in your evaluation. That's all the law requires -- good faith reasoning using all four factors.

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