Copyright Notices for Private Study

Consistent with Section 108, eligible libraries and archives may reproduce materials for library users’ private study, subject to various conditions. One condition is the posting of copyright notices in two key places: on the order forms used to request copies and at the place where orders for copies are accepted. The notices must appear in both locations. This memorandum focuses only on the required notices; the library must meet other requirements in the law. For more information about those requirements, see Copies for Private Study or Research.

Why should the library post the notices?

Sections 108(d) and 108(e) of the U.S. Copyright Act permit eligible libraries and archives to reproduce certain materials for patrons for their private study. These provisions require the institution to display "prominently, at the place where orders are accepted, and include on its order form, a warning of copyright in accordance with requirements that the Register of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation." By providing the notices and complying with other provisions of the law, a library or archives may make copies of certain materials for the benefit of researchers.

What warning notices must be displayed?

The text of the warning to be included on the order form and at the place where orders are accepted is prescribed by U.S. Copyright Office regulations, C.F.R., title 37, vol. 1, sec. 201.14 (2008). Both notices must state the following, verbatim:


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions 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 a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

How must the warning notice be displayed at the place where orders are accepted?

The U.S. Copyright Office further specifies the manner in which the notice must be displayed. The copyright warning posted at the place where orders are accepted must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be printed on heavy paper or other durable material;
  • It must be printed in at least an 18-point font; and
  • It must be displayed prominently, such that it is "clearly visible, legible, and comprehensible to a casual observer within the immediate vicinity of the place where orders are accepted."

Therefore, many libraries and archives simply print the notice on sturdy paper and attach it to a sign or directly on the service counter or other location.

How must the warning notice be included on the order form?

The U.S. Copyright Office specifies the following requirements for the copyright warning on the order form used to request copies for private study:

  • It must be printed within a box on the form itself, either on the front side of the form or immediately adjacent to the space calling for the name or signature of the person using the form;
  • It must be printed in a font size no smaller than that used predominantly throughout the form, and it cannot be printed in smaller than an 8-point font; and
  • It must be "clearly legible, comprehensible, and readily apparent to a casual reader of the form."

Many libraries and archives have online "order forms." Although the foregoing requirements seem to anticipate paper forms, libraries should be able to adapt the requirements as reasonably appropriate under the circumstances.

Are alternate notices possible?

Alternate forms of the required notice are not advisable. The U.S. Copyright Office regulations specify that warnings must consist of a verbatim reproduction of the notice. Therefore, no modifications should be made to the language of the warning notice. However, the library may certainly provide additional copyright information as appropriate.

For additional information

Librarians at Columbia University may contact the Copyright Advisory Office with any questions or for assistance with implementing these procedures.

Most recent revision: 073009




When making use of this page under the terms of the CC license, please include this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY license from the Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University, Kenneth D. Crews, director."  If your needs for the material are outside the scope of the license, please consider fair use or simply askingus for permission.