Copyright Basics for the Health Sciences

Learn the basics of copyright law and the fair use guidelines from a health sciences perspective.

Sharing with Others at Another University

Scenario: Diane works at UNC-Chapel Hill. She finds Jack's article in an electronic journal and saves the full-text PDF to her computer. She knows her cousin would want to read it as well, but unfortunately, his university doesn't subscribe to this journal.

Maybe. The publisher may allow a limited amount of scholarly sharing, or the fair use exception may allow Diane to share the article for educational and scholarly purposes. However, Diane should avoid sharing copyrighted articles systematically and widely.

Sharing with Others at the Same University

Scenario: Suppose Diane's cousin attends UNC-Chapel Hill. In that case, could Diane save him time and e-mail the article to him, since he has access to the article anyway?

Probably, unless the vendor's license agreement does not allow users to e-mail or print out copies of an article for another authorized user.

Sharing Photocopies at a Conference

Scenario: Diane is involved in planning a large conference that will bring 500 researchers and practitioners from business and academia to campus. Diane has been asked to photocopy five articles, including Jack's, and include them in each attendee's conference packet for discussion during the conference. Should she do this?

Probably not without some investigation. Diane should start by looking at the articles and journals to see if she can determine the terms of use.  If the articles do not bear a Creative Commons license or other liberal terms for re-use, she may need to consider alternatives to making the photocopies.  These might include getting permission, substituting other articles, or directing conference attendees to online copies of the articles available in PubMed Central or another repository.