Brown University Library Services: About OCRA

About Online Course Reserves (OCRA)


Brown's libraries offer online access to faculty assigned texts, audio, and video materials for courses. Digitized texts and links to licensed materials are known as online reserves. In addition to book chapters and persistent links to articles, you can also request audio and video for your students to access over the web. Physical material can also be requested via OCRA and placed on reserve in the Rockefeller, Sciences, or Orwig libraries.

Online Course Reserves Access (OCRA) is the service used to place books and other physical media on reserve AND to create electronic reserves: links to ebooks and other online content, digitization of articles, book chapters, full-length movies, short video clips, and audio files. You simply supply the citation information and/or the material to digitize, and Library and Academic Technology staff work together to do the rest, including adding links to your Canvas site.


In order to comply with copyright and fair use, faculty are asked to use OCRA for all course readings, audio files and videos. The library will ensure that a legal copy is provided for distribution to students. For more information, see Course Reserves & Streaming Media FAQ.


Faculty and the University are liable for copyright compliance. Actions for copyright infringement may be brought against not only Brown University as an institution, but also the individual faculty members of Brown University. It is the Brown University policy that individual faculty members are responsible for determining whether permission is required for any and all materials used in their teaching. It is the Faculty member's responsibility to assure that all items placed on course reserve either conform to copyright are licensed by the Library, or have the permission of the copyright holder, or fall within the Fair Use guidelines. For more information, see Brown University Copyright and Fair Use. OCRA was designed in part to address copyright concerns. Faculty and the University are liable for copyright compliance. Use of the OCRA system ensures content complies with copyright and fair use and draws on licensed copies of content either subscribed, owned or obtained by the library. Faculty members will be presumed to have gotten any necessary permissions for course materials at the time they are delivered to OCRA or BGS. Faculty requiring assistance either in making a fair use determination or in procuring permissions should contact Ned Quist. Faculty should plan accordingly to allow sufficient time to make fair use assessments and procure permissions.

What are the Fair Use guidelines?

The instructor of the course is responsible for complying with copyright laws. Fair Use is not easily defined. In determining whether the use of a copyrighted work in any particular case is a fair use the following four factors are considered:

  1. the purpose and character of the use made, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

A determination of whether or not a use is a "fair use" is not made on the basis of any one factor, but on all four factors examined together. A reproduction for educational purposes alone, therefore, may not be sufficient for a finding of fair use. In deciding whether you can reproduce a given work for use in teaching without first obtaining the consent of the copyright holder, you must make a determination that the use is a fair use as permitted under copyright laws. If it does not, then you must get permission from the owner of the copyright to use it. Getting permission or a license to use the work may involve a fee[EQ10] . All uses of materials of for educational purposes are not necessarily fair use. There are no hard and fast rules regarding what is fair use in this context but the following are a few guidelines to keep in mind to help decide whether fair use applies in your case:

  1. If a work is already licensed to the University for teaching purpose, additional permission from the copyright holder is not required and the use is a permitted use.
  2. If a work is in the public domain, or a publication of the U.S. Government permission from the copyright holder is not required.
  3. If a work is still under copyright and not covered by a license to the University, permission from the copyright holder is likely to be required for a work when the faculty member is using more than (a) ten percent of a book with fewer than ten chapters, or (b) ten percent of a book that is not divided into chapters, or (c) one chapter or its equivalent in a book of more than ten chapters, or (d) ten percent of a work 2,500 words of an article, story or essay .

Other factors that may assist in making a decision on whether a particular use is Fair Use:

  1. Passworded for Class Use Only: Access to this photocopy or digital copy is necessary to meet course educational objectives, will be limited to students enrolled in the class, and will be removed at the end of the semester. The OCRA form requires a class password; the library will remove student access to digital material at the end of each semester.
  2. Format of the Work: This material meets the following criteria:
    -- It is NOT included in a coursepack or textbook ordered for your class.
    -- If the work is unpublished, permission of the author has been obtained.

  3. Reasonable Amount: The amount of the work digitized is reasonable and no more than necessary to meet the course educational objectives. Library guidelines: a single article from a journal issue, a complete short poem, no more than one chapter of a book (with at least 10 chapters), or 10%, whichever is greater.

  4. Market Impact: The Library or the instructor owns (or will acquire) the original published item. The Library will attempt to acquire a copy of book if we do not already own it and it meets our collecting guidelines The Library may purchase a digital copy of the article if available.

It is always best to obtain the consent of the copyright holder when possible and to resort to a fair use only if there are time constraints that prevent you from obtaining the requisite consent. Since course materials are usually put together over a period of weeks or months, the decision to use a work is generally made well in advance of the start of the class. You are, therefore, specifically, advised that:

  • You may not defer making a decision to use a work until shortly before the time for such use in an attempt to create the appearance that the decision to use the work was spontaneous as opposed to planned; and
  • The Metcalf Copy Center provides copyright clearance as well as printing and selling services for the Brown community. The University does not endorse the use of outside copy centers. If you give works to a “copy center” that violates the copyright law in its copying practices, you are also complicit in the violation and subject to actions for copyright infringement.
What is the difference between putting content in OCRA and using iTunes U?

iTunes U is used for Brown-generated content, not for copyrighted material. Copyrighted material cannot be legally downloaded. The media files in OCRA meet fair use guideslines and are streamed, not downloaded.