Answered By: Monique Ritchie
Last Updated: 12 Nov, 2014     Views: 108

There is no simple answer to this one.

The Library doesn't currently hold any blanket licences which cover the distribution of born digital materials like PDF journal articles to multiple users for teaching and learning. Therefore, how you can share a PDF paper will depend on several factors, including where it's from and whether there are any terms which cover its distribution to multiple users.

If the PDF paper is from an electronic resource that the Library subscribes to, check the resource for its policy on distribution for educational purposes, as multiple copying may already be permitted by the subscription licence. Many resources, but not all, allow you to provide a direct link to the online content, which your students can then view or download individually as needed. Using links in this way is preferable, as it allows the Library to collect accurate data on the usage of e-resources, which can affect decisions made to keep or cancel subscriptions. Also, links can be embedded in your module in the VLE without taking up file storage space, and can easily be transferred from one reading list to another, year to year.

PDF papers from other sources are likely to require permission from the copyright owner.

Pre-print or post-print publisher PDFs for papers you or a third party have written will often need the publisher's permission for further dissemination as you the copyright is often assigned to the publisher as part of the publication agreement.  If your papers are archived in the University's research archive (BURA), then, subject to publisher policy, you may be able to provide your students with a link to that version instead. However, BURA's remit doesn't extend to licensing content it hosts for further multiple copying, so where this is intended, permission should be obtained.

For PDFs from free-to-view websites, it may be acceptable for an individual to browse, but copying by multiple users, even for educational purposes, must again be explicitly covered by a licence or permission from the rights owner. So always check the website for its policy on further distribution to multiple users.

Please submit a request via your Subject Liaison Librarian (with the entire bibliographic information) if you wish to distribute a PDF from a published source.  After conducting copyright licensing and compliance checks on your request, and if successful, the Digital Reading Service will attempt to supply a scanned copy of the licensed PDF reading for your online reading list if there is no existing subscribed content through the library's e-resource.  

The Digital Reading Service or your Subject Liaison Librarian will get back to you if there are any problems.

For further information on copyright and digital readings including limits, visit the Library's web pages.