The CONTU Guidelines place strict limits on the number of articles a library may borrow from a given journal (the “rule of five”) and require that copyright fees be paid when those limits are exceeded. CONTU was established based on an economic analysis of scholarly publishing, library acquisitions, and ILL arrangements current in the 1970s. The guidelines called for periodic reassessments and updates. After 40 years without an update, it is clear that the economic analysis of the 1970s is no longer valid, calling into question the continuing relevance of the CONTU Guidelines’ “rule of five.”
We conclude that the CONTU Guidelines are outdated and should no longer be relied on as an appropriate measure of when ILL borrowing exceeds the statutory exemption in 17 U.S.C. § 108(g)(2). We recommend adopting an updated, more flexible, and more appropriate standard grounded in the text of the law rather than relying on CONTU for copyright compliance.
Association of Research Libraries
August 31 2020