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Copyright Resources for Faculty: First Sale Doctrine

First Sale Doctrine

Another exception to copyright is the First Sale Doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 109(a), which limits the right of the copyright holder's ability to restrict the resale of their protected work after the the "first sale."  This allows for the right to lend, give, sell, rent, or throw away items that have been legally obtained without the permission of the copyright holder.  This is the foundation of how libraries operate legally.

Under the First Sale Doctrine, faculty members are allowed to share legally obtained items with their students.  For example, a faculty member may lend their physical book to a student who's shipment was delayed.  They have transferred their physical copy to another person, as opposed to making a copy of the work.

Course Reserves

One of the ways faculty members can take advantage of the First Sale Doctrine is through the library's course reserves.  You may provide the library with a personal copy of a legally obtained item, and the library will temporarily load it into our library catalog for students to check out.  You can select from several loan periods, including 2-hour in library use only and also overnight, 2-Day, and 7-Day loans which allow students to take the items home with them.  For more information on using course reserves and to access the course reserve form, visit our webpage.

Digital Content is NOT Covered

The First Sale Doctrine only applies to physical copies; it does not apply to digital copies. When sharing electronic files with another person, people are generally sending a copy of that file.  There is no way to guarantee or enforce the original owner to delete the file from their own device after sharing it, so sharing digital content cannot be protected the same way you can with physical items.  When sharing electronic resources, Tarleton Libraries recommends that you always share links to legally accessible materials as opposed to providing copies of copyrighted content. 

For example, instead of uploading a PDF copy of an article into Canvas, locate the article in one of Tarleton Libraries' databases and share the permalink with your students.  Note that you need to share a permalink if you're using a database (the URL at the top of your browser is only effective for your current browser session).  For the library's Discovery@Tarleton tool and all EBSCOhost databases, you can access the permalink on the bottom of the right toolbar (boxed in purple).  That will prompt a link to appear at the top of the item record (starred in purple).  The concept will be similar in most databases.  Look for terms like "permalink" or "stable link" to generate a sharable link.