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ARL releases Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for academic and research libraries

Press Release: Association of Research Libraries [January 26, 2012]

January 26, 2012 -- Washington, DC. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) announces the release of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, a clear and easy-to-use statement of fair and reasonable approaches to fair use developed by and for librarians who support academic inquiry and higher education. The Code was developed in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University. Winston Tabb, Johns Hopkins University Dean of University Libraries and Museums and President of ARL, said, "This document is a testament to the collective wisdom of academic and research librarians, who have asserted careful and considered approaches to some very difficult situations that we all face every day."

In dozens of interviews with veteran research and academic librarians, the researchers learned how copyright law comes into play as interviewees performed core library functions. Then, in a series of small group discussions held with library policymakers around the country, the research team developed a consensus approach to applying fair use.

Co-facilitator Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives at ARL, said, "The power of this project depends on the many librarians who participated. They were extraordinarily generous with their time and their insight."

The Code deals with such common questions in higher education as:

  • When and how much copyrighted material can be digitized for student use? And should video be treated the same way as print?
  • How can libraries' special collections be made available online?
  • Can libraries archive websites for the use of future students and scholars?

Librarians have already expressed enthusiasm about the release of the Code. Lizabeth A. Wilson, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Washington and Chair of the ARL Working Group on Fair Use and Related Exemptions, said, "The Code provides librarians with powerful tools to work through copyright challenges in a way that is within the law and that gives due weight to their own values and the considered opinions of their peers in the library community."

Librarians also signaled the significance of the Code, given the collaborative and nuanced processes involved in university policymaking. James F. Williams II, Dean of Libraries at the University of Colorado Boulder and Chair of the ARL Steering Committee for Influencing Public Policies, said, "I believe this code will empower libraries as they work with counsel, administrators, faculty, and other stakeholders to develop reasonable policies and practices tailored to their institutions."

The Code identifies the relevance of fair use in eight recurrent situations for librarians:

  • Supporting teaching and learning with access to library materials via digital technologies
  • Using selections from collection materials to publicize a library's activities, or to create physical and virtual exhibitions
  • Digitizing to preserve at-risk items
  • Creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials
  • Reproducing material for use by disabled students, faculty, staff, and other appropriate users
  • Maintaining the integrity of works deposited in institutional repositories
  • Creating databases to facilitate non-consumptive research uses (including search)
  • Collecting material posted on the web and making it available

In the Code, librarians affirm that fair use is available in each of these contexts, providing helpful guidance about the scope of best practice in each.

Such codes have a powerful effect both in law and practice. "Courts care what affected communities think about fair use and so do the other policymakers and gatekeepers," noted co-facilitator Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law at American University. "Now librarians are on the record with a powerful statement of their values."

Such codes already have a significant history in improving the ability of professionals to improve practice. Co-facilitator Patricia Aufderheide, University Professor in the School of Communication at American University and Director of the Center for Social Media, said, "Librarians can now join other communities of practice that have designed such codes. They have been able to reduce market friction and meet mission with the confidence that they are acting within the best practices of their peers."

The development of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries is supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To download the Code and view supplementary educational resources, including videos, slideshows, and FAQs, visit the ARL website:

About The Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 126 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at

The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP), co-founded by Professor Peter Jaszi, promotes social justice in law governing information dissemination and intellectual property through research, scholarship, public events, advocacy, and provision of legal and consulting services. The program is a project of the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, DC. PIJIP is on the web at

The Center for Social Media

The Center for Social Media (CSM), founded and led by Professor Patricia Aufderheide, has run the Fair Use and Free Speech project in coordination with PIJIP and Professor Jaszi since 2004. The center is a project of the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. CSM is on the web at

View Citation
Publication Year:2012
Type of Material:Press Release
Language English
Issue:January 26, 2012
Publisher:Association of Research Libraries
Company: Association of Research Libraries
Record Number:16508
Last Update:2023-11-22 04:47:00
Date Created:2012-01-26 07:09:10