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Copyright and Interlibrary Loan (ILL)


David L. Rice Library borrows books and articles from libraries in the U.S. and other countries, and lends materials to libraries that request them. Borrowing books is generally not affected by the U.S. Copyright Law because the First Sale doctrine allows libraries to lend items they have purchased.

In order to obtain copies of articles and book chapters, however, the ILL Unit must comply with the rights and restrictions provided by the U.S. Copyright Law [Sections 107, 108(g)(2)] and the CONTU Guidelines on Photocopying under Interlibrary Loan Arrangements (National Commission on New Technological Uses). This means Rice Library must observe the following:

  • The copy becomes the property of the patron; and
  • The copy must be used for research, scholarship, or private study; and
  • The library includes a "Warning of Copyright" on the copy; and
  • The library and/or the requestor pays copyright fees on any copy that exceeds the Rule of Five (see below).

In general, the following may be copied and distributed through ILL:

  • Entire works or sections of works that are in the public domain, published by the U.S. government, used with permission from the copyright holder, or used under the provisions of Section 108 (Fair Use), and
  • Copyrighted works owned by a library, where the copy is missing or damaged and the library has first determined, on the basis of reasonable investigation, that the copyrighted work cannot be obtained at a fair price.

Rule of Five (Limits on Reproduction)

Section 108(g) of the U.S. Copyright Law states that libraries and archives should not be prevented from "participating in interlibrary arrangements that do not have, as their purpose of effect, that the library or archives receiving such copies or phonorecords for distribution does so in such aggregate quantities as to substitute for a subscription to or purchase of such work."

The CONTU Guidelines clarify "aggregate quantities" in this explanation: ". . . any given periodical (as opposed to any given issue of a periodical), filled requests of a library or archives (a "requesting entity") within any calendar year for a total of six or more copies of an article or articles published in such periodical within five years prior to the date of the request."

Taken together, the U.S. Copyright Law and the CONTU Guidelines have been interpreted by U.S. libraries as the "rule of five." When the "five" have been reached, the requesting library must pay copyright charges, as set forth by the journal's publisher, which can usually be done through the Copyright Clearance Center. The ILL unit requests that the patron pay the copyright charges prior to the item being ordered. The "rule of five" does not apply to articles from journals that are older than five years at the time the request is made.

See also: "About Interlibrary Loan"


*Authorized off-campus users are currently enrolled students and currently employed faculty and staff.

Adjunct faculty have access after receiving their 1st paycheck issued during each academic term employed. For more information or special assistance, contact Martha Niemeier, Interim Library Director, at 464-1824 or Rose Scruggs, Electronic Services Coordinator at 464-1828.