Copyright law affects the work of academic and research librarians pervasively and in complex ways, because the great bulk of these librarians’ work deals with accessing, storing, exhibiting, or providing access to copyrighted material.
The rights of copyright holders create incentives for the publication of important work that forms the core of library collections, while at the same time constraining academic and research librarians in the exercise of their mission. Similarly, limitations on and exceptions to copyright rights enable academic and research librarians to use copyrighted materials in important ways, but impose limits and responsibilities of their own.
In addition to specific exceptions for libraries and educators, academic and research librarians use the important general exemption of fair use to accomplish their mission. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances, especially when the cultural or social benefits of the use are predominant.