The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.

Course reserves are comprised of course materials that Penn instructors will put on hold at the Libraries for use in support of the academic mission of the University and the educational activities within a course.  These materials have limited circulation periods for patron use.  Course reserve materials can be in physical form (print books, DVDs, CDs), as well as digital in the form of electronic reserves (handouts, articles, and PDFs of book chapters).  Electronic reserves are available through a courseware site, like Canvas, which is password protected.  Closed Canvas sites are only accessible to instructors and enrolled students in connection with the course for which the material has been assigned.  Course reserves are placed only during semesters when the course for which those materials were requested is in session.  The materials that are placed on course reserve are generally removed at the end of each semester.  Please email to reactivate a course reserve list.

Fair Use

The use of electronic reserves material, as with all course reserves, is governed by the United States Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. Section 101 et. seq.), specifically the “fair use” (Section 107) provision, as well as University of Pennsylvania policies.  In determining whether use of a work is a “fair use” four statutory factors are considered:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

  • The nature of the copyrighted work;

  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyright work.

The Libraries comply with all applicable copyright laws, and may decline to place materials on electronic course reserve if the nature, scope, or extent of the material requested is beyond the reasonable limits of fair use.  Requests for multiple articles from a single journal issue, multiple chapters from a single book or excessive portions of any media are likely to be declined.  Materials marketed primarily for use in the type of course being offered (for example, lab manuals, workbooks, or test books) will not be placed on electronic course reserve.  In such cases, the Library may contact you to discuss other options for making a work available.

Streaming Media

The Libraries have access to some film and audio media that are appropriate for course-required viewing and listening.  Please see The Cinema & Media Studies: Streaming from Penn Libraries guide and The Music Resources in the Penn Libraries: Streaming music audio & video, public domain content guide for more information on what audio and streaming titles are potentially available, and how you can find and access them for use in connection with your course-required viewing and listening. 

Film titles on Library licensed streaming platforms, typically Swank or Kanopy, may be linked to an instructor’s closed Canvas site for easy, low-risk access.  The Libraries are not able to acquire streaming licenses to personal streaming platforms like AppleTV, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, etc., because these streaming platforms are for personal use only, and do not offer institutional licenses that the Libraries can purchase.  Some instructors find that they are able to assign a film for course-required viewing by finding the title on a personal streaming platform, and requiring that students obtain a subscription so that the student can stream the title independently.

Please note that streaming is very popular, and submit your requests early for course reserve processing.  Requests for items that are not available for sale in the marketplace (including titles that are exclusives on personal streaming platforms, physical DVDs, etc.) and for which the Library cannot procure a streaming license, will be returned to the requester with options on other alternatives, if any are available. 

Permissions and Copyright Notices

Instructors are responsible for obtaining permission from the copyright-holder for materials they wish to place on electronic course reserve that the Libraries cannot license, and that exceed fair use.  Please note that out of stock or out of print does not mean the work is not protected by copyright laws.  Instructors who scan and mount their own electronic readings should include a copyright statement at the beginning of each document.  The Libraries use the text below:

Warning concerning copyright restrictions

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction.  One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.”  If electronic transmission of reserve materials is used for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Additional Information and Contact

For additional information about copyright please consult the Penn Libraries’ Copyright Resources guide.

Due to the complexities of copyright law and inconsistencies in interpretation, we invite faculty to speak with Erin Sharwell (215-898-9767 or for more information and additional resources on copyright and course reserves.