Court reverses e-reserves policy

A federal appeals court has reversed a 2012 decision that had generally supported the use of e-reserves at Georgia State University.

Under the protection of fair use, professors can use electronic reserves, also known as e-reserves, to provide their students with certain amounts of copyrighted material free of charge. However, many authors and publishers have argued that e-reserves violate copyright and intellectual property laws.

Although the appeals court’s decision is widely seen as a victory for major publishing firms, Nancy Sims, the University of Minnesota’s copyright program librarian, argued that the ruling is more nuanced than it appears.

For example, Sims rejoiced that the court rejected the Classroom Guidelines, a set of copyright rules written in 1976, as an authoritative source of copyright law. She also approved of the court’s declaration that educational intentions should enjoy special consideration in cases of potential copyright infringement.

Additionally, the court ruled that future allegations of copyright infringement should be reviewed on an item-by-item basis, and it eliminated a previous ruling that capped e-reserves at 10 percent of one copyrighted chapter. Both of these decisions provide educational institutions with more freedom, Sims argued.

Because we rely on e-reserves as a no-cost alternative to textbooks in many of our classes, we fervently hope that the court’s recent decision won’t prove detrimental to professors’ freedom to post e-reserves. We encourage students and faculty who agree to continue monitoring the Georgia State University lawsuit as it unfolds.