[Athen] Conversion Request for Non-Required Textbook

Butler, Brandon (bcb4y) bcb4y at virginia.edu
Mon Feb 10 09:51:11 PST 2020

Hi Mary,

It’s definitely not that cut-and-dried, under either Chafee or fair use. Indeed, under fair use (as it was applied in the HathiTrust case), you’re allowed to provide alternative formats to students for any book they would like to read, for any reason (or none). The Chafee Amendment’s only limitations are that the student must have a qualifying disability and the institution must be an “authorized entity.” There are some other limitations as to what kinds of works can be provided (unpublished works are excluded, as are audiovisual works), but they don’t apply here. It sounds like we’re talking about a published book (a “literary work,” in copyright speak). There is no distinction between “required” material, merely supplemental material, or “just for fun.”

There’s a separate question about whether providing this accommodation is required by the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or any other civil rights laws that may apply. I’m sure you could argue that it’s not reasonable for your office to be chopping and scanning anything any student with a disability wants to read, because students with more urgent needs (required reading) might be crowded out by students who are only reading for fun. But if you have the capacity to serve both required and supplemental/recreational reading, I would imagine you should do so, lest the students with disabilities have a fair claim that they are not receiving a reasonable accommodation. Why should sighted students have access to a learning experience that includes both required and supplemental texts, while students with disabilities must get by on the bare minimum of required materials? All students should have access to the same educational opportunities, regardless of disability. At least, that’s an argument the student (or the NFB, or the OCR at DOE) could make.

There’s much more detail in the white paper that the Association of Research Libraries put out last year, which explains how copyright and civil rights laws interact: https://www.arl.org/resources/the-law-and-accessible-texts-reconciling-civil-rights-and-copyrights/.


Brandon Butler | Director of Information Policy | University of Virginia Library<https://www.library.virginia.edu> | bcb4y at virginia.edu | 434.982.5874 | @bc_butler<http://twitter.com/bc_butler> | PO Box 400152, C'ville, VA 22904-0152 | 4105 Lewis & Clark Dr. #4066 |The Taper<http://thetaper.library.virginia.edu>|ORCID: 0000-0003-0190-6165<https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0190-6165>| he/him/his

From: athen-list <athen-list-bounces at mailman12.u.washington.edu> on behalf of Mary Popish <popish at pdx.edu>
Reply-To: Access Technology Higher Education Network <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Date: Monday, February 10, 2020 at 12:27 PM
To: "athen-list at u.washington.edu" <athen-list at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Athen] Conversion Request for Non-Required Textbook

Hello all,

A student reached out to our alternate formats team to see whether we could cut, scan, and rebind a textbook that they purchased that was not required for their course of study. The student offered to cover the cost, since the book isn't required.

It's my understanding of copyright law and the Chaffee Amendment that we wouldn't be able to do this, since the text is not required. Am I correct?

If not, please let me know! And if so, I'd love any suggestions from folks who have had similar requests about how you explained why you couldn't process the book. (Outside of sorry, it's the law -- or maybe that's all I need to say!) I'm anticipating a follow up question from the student offering to pay again. If anyone has language they've used to explain this situation to other students in the past, I'd appreciate if you could share.

Thanks so much,

Mary Popish
Adaptive Technology Specialist & Alternate Formats Coordinator
Disability Resource Center
Portland State University

Phone: (503) 725-9119
Fax: (503) 725-4103
Email: drc at pdx.edu<mailto:drc at pdx.edu>
URL: http://www.pdx.edu/drc
Pronouns: she / her / hers

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