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Fair Use

MLA Position Statement


As a member of the Medical Libraries Association (MLA), the Periodic Paralysis Research Library (PPRL) has adopted the policy as expressed in the MLA Position Statement on the Copyright Law and Fair Use.

The following is taken from the MLA Fair Use Position Statement.

Fair use

Congress codified fair use in section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, which allows reasonable use of a work without permission for specified purposes, including scholarship, teaching, and research.

Factors constituting fair use

To promote the advancement of knowledge, the copyright law seeks to balance the rights of the author or owner of a work and the rights of users. Four factors determine what constitutes fair use:

The purpose and character of the use, including whether it is for commercial or non-profit educational purposes

MLA supports the provision of the statute which justifies certain uses, including photocopying, for the purposes of scholarship and research. Students or scientists may copy articles for their own use and librarians are permitted to make one copy of an article for a user upon a signed request adjoining the copyright statement. Before the photocopier existed, people took notes from books and journals by hand, considered a fair use at the time. MLA recognizes that the photocopier merely makes the process easier; it does not affect the inherent "fairness" of the use or the right of the user to copy material. MLA maintains that it is the librarian's responsibility to inform users of this right.

The nature of the copyrighted work

Legal consideration of this factor sometimes takes into account whether a work is published or non-published, and whether it is fact-based vs. non-fact-based. In the health sciences, librarians deal primarily with published, copyrighted materials (e.g., books and journals) which may be copied to support scholarship, teaching, research, and patient care. Unpublished works, such as personal corres- pondence and diaries, typically are not used to support these purposes in the health sciences.

The amount and substantiality of the portion to be copied as it relates to the work as a whole

This factor typically does not allow a user or a librarian to copy a whole book or an entire issue of a journal, and a library typically may not make multiple copies, except for certain classroom uses. MLA encourages its members to work with their parent institutions to develop clear statements for users on the extent to which materials may be copied.

The effect of the use on the potential market or value of the work

The statute provides for consideration of how the use of a work affects the market for the work. Authors of fiction, drama, poetry, or popular nonfiction write so that their works will be read and bring the author a profit. The copyright law protects authors from those who would pirate their works, denying them fair income. Authors of scientific papers, however, do not receive income from their articles. They publish to inform their colleagues, announce discoveries, and often build their reputations by the quality and acceptance of their ideas and claims.

The Medical Library Association encourages librarians to utilize these criteria in discussion of rights and responsibilities of library users.

The MLA works with other library associations and the legal system to address fair use rights which could potentially affect patient care by impairing the ability of health sciences librarians to collect and disseminate health care information to researchers, health care professionals, and scholars. In 1993, MLA and other members of the library community filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in support of Texaco's appeal of a 1992 ruling that denied Texaco's researchers the right to copy scientific journal articles held by Texaco's library. MLA has also addressed the issue of fair use of printed electronic information as it relates to recent high-performance computing legislation and the National Information Infrastructure.

Section Last Modified:
11/6/2011 10:55 PT