Using Copyrighted and Library Content

Find out how you can legally and ethically use copyrighted and library content in your academic research, instruction, essays & writings, and creative projects. Legal disclaimer: this copyright guide is meant for informational & educational purposes only.

Library Research Guide

What is Systematic Downloading?


This page explains why vendors do not agree with downloading all of the articles of a journal, defined as "systematic downloading" and affecting the market value of the work.  After this explanation there are recommended search strategies to help analyze a large amount of text. 

Systematic downloading refers to the prohibited method content is sometimes retrieved from a library database. There are multiple ways this can occur.

  • The first is when full content of a title (such as every article of a journal issue) is downloaded.
  • Sometimes this also involves software such as a spider directly on a vendor server.
  • Vendors may also suspect this activity if a single database search session is considered by the vendor to be unusually long and gathering a significant amount of content.

Suspicious time and prohibited amount of downloaded content is not typically specified in an electronic resource license. This is rather communicated between the vendor and the library at the point of violation, at which a patron may experience a blocked IP address. Patrons should contact the librarian if they require a lengthy use of an electronic resource beyond this limitation. She or an Academic Services Librarian may advise search strategies for this content that are tailored to the vendor’s terms of use.  

Market Value of Journals

The market value of scholarly material is protected by a license. If an entire electronic journal volume is downloaded from a library to reuse multiple times, that means that the individual avoided purchasing said volume and the vendor is at an unanticipated loss. Vendors do not agree to downloading every article from a title unless text mining is expressly written into a license. In addition, the individual would not be in favor of the third factor of fair use (the amount being used) if they were to use/download the entire content from a journal (considered an individual copyrighted work). currency

Recommended Search Strategies

  • Break up your search session if planning to gather a lot of material and significant time on a single database.
  • Talk to an Academic Services Librarian in order to learn to most effectively use the tools available through the vendor interface that might be available through Advanced Search options.  
  • Instead of downloading every journal article to do an analysis of what information they provide, plan to do part of the analysis with the tools already built into the electronic resource interface.

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