Is this "Fair Use"?

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  • Dear Copyright Advisory Network!

    The reason I turn to you for guidance because I was assigned to bring light to the following issues:

    Is it “Fair Use” if a company employee who also works part-time as a faculty member at a university uses the electronic and print collection of the university library without reimbursement for it and these materials are not obtained for creating education materials for the students, rather than to aid the research of a for-profit company?

    Is it Ok to this type of activity if it happens as “ad hoc” and not on a regular basis?

    After interviewing the academic library director herself, the response was that the academic institution does not have any policy on this and they are not in the business of policing faculty. Interestingly on their website they refer to use library resources in accordance with “Fair Use”.

    Another question:

    Is it “Fair Use” if another academic institution which is not in CA as the above one, send its students to that particular for-profit company to fulfill the profession’s residency requirement while that university’s library’s are used for research by this for-profit company to aid its profit making?

    Thank you in advance.

  • In answer to your first question: First, the use of material in a database is governed by the terms of the contract the library signs with the database provider, which may trump copyright laws, so "fair use" does not come in to the question. If the contract strictly specifies what use the users make of the material, then the user may be in violation. However, most libraries won't sign a clause making them responsible for what an end user does with the material; any violation should be the user's responsibility, not the library's. If, however, the contract only specifies what type of user (i.e., current faculty, etc.) may access the material but not what they may do with it, the professor can do what he or she wants.

    For material the library owns, rather than accesses through contract, copyright law would apply. In this case, the end user may use the material however he or she pleases within the law, and the user, not the library, is liable for any infringement.

    I don't quite understand your second question.
  • Janet!

    Many thanks for your response.

    If you send me a contact information I could better explain the second part of my question.

    Best Regards,

  • Doing it on here is best because then others who have similar problems can read the answer!

    Are the students from an out-of-state for-profit educational institution using a university library in the state in which they are currently living? In that case, it will depend on the university library's policies. If they are open to the public, anybody can use it. If the students are living there and paying taxes, they have even more right to use it. If it's a private university, they have a right to decide who they let in to use their resources, so they might or might not let in people who are not their students.
  • Judithka,

    Our Forum is set up as a web service only, and our service policies limit us to responding only to the questions posted here.

    It sounds like your second question is also one of Library licensing terms and Library policy. Per US Copyright Law, Fair Use can only be applied to a specific case, such as reproducing a book chapter by a particular user for a given purpose.

    Since your question is more general in nature, you may find it helpful to do a bit of background reading about Fair Use at the following site developed by our wonderful colleagues at the University of Texas:

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