Guidelines for Using Copyrighted Works in the Electronic Reserves System

George Mason University applies the four fair use factors for using copyrighted material on a case-by-case basis. For more detailed legal information, please see the University Libraries' Copyright Resources Office homepage for links to Title 17, U.S. Code §107.

When deciding whether your use is a fair use or not, the following four factors must be considered equally:

  1. The PURPOSE of your use
  2. The NATURE of the work to be copied
  3. The AMOUNT of the work you wish to use in relation to the work as a whole, and
  4. The EFFECT of your use on the market for or value of the work as a whole.

Fair use is complex and often confusing, so please use the Fair Use Checklist offered by Columbia University to help you determine if your use is fair. Print this worksheet out and keep it as a record of how you arrived at your decision. If you have questions, contact the Copyright Resources Office ( or 993-2544) for guidance.

For use of an item to be considered fair, a complete citation must also be included on the first page of each item. Even Public Domain sources must be correctly attributed, and online sources should include a complete URL address.

When your proposed use of any copyrighted work appears to go beyond fair use limitations, the University Libraries’ Electronic Reserves service will seek the required clearances for educational use and pay any applicable royalty fees.

Procedures for using the Electronic Reserves System

The following procedures must be completed by each instructor submitting readings (one article or twenty) for digitization into the University Libraries' Electronic Course Reserves for student use. You may access the online submission form here: Reserves electronic form.

Step 1. Please be prepared to submit complete information for each of the following:

Each book citation must include all page numbers needed. Providing a chapter title, as you would the title of a journal article (even when you are not using all consecutive pages in a chapter), is very helpful.

Library staff will verify each citation using the information provided, as well as attempt to find missing information when possible.

Submit any written permission letters you have received from colleagues/authors, or any other preauthorization to use copyrighted materials, such as student authorization forms.

Step 2. After you have submitted the online form, place all readings in a pocket folder or envelope and deliver it to the Circulation Desk at the Johnson Center Library in Fairfax, Mercy Library in Prince William, or Arlington Campus Library in Arlington.

The quality of the digitized version stems from the quality of the copy, so please provide clean copies with no black edges.

Paper clip each photocopied article/book chapter.

Please include a copy of the front and back (or wherever the copyright information is printed) of the title page for each book from which you have taken an excerpt. This information will help us identify the copyright owner.

Many BOOK publishers do not currently grant permission for digitizing any part of their titles. If this is the case for any item you have requested, it is not a decision made by the Electronic Reserves or Copyright Resources Office staff. We are required by law to comply with stipulations set by the copyright owner.