copyright law and inter-library loan - what's up?

Here we summarize the provisions of German copyright law as they apply to distributing copies of scientific work which has not been licenced by the library but received from another library (inter-library loan) or from another distributor. We refer to copyright law in its form of 2017. For a few more details, please, turn to the German version of this page.

...and some are perhaps not what you desire or expect

The situation becomes picky when we talk about  delivery in electronic form (e-mail). This is lawful only under the combined condition of

  •  there is use according to § 53 and
  • the document is a faksimile, i.e. an analogue file, e.g. a FAX or a scan, but definitively not the publishers's pdf file of the article, and
  • the holder of the copyright (publisher) does not sell the file in an obvious way and under fair conditions.

Clearly, the 3rd point with qualifications like obvious and fair is difficult to meet without risks. To be on the safe side, delivery of papers from inter-library loan by email should be avoided wherever possible.

The 2nd point however should be noted too: under no conditions within German copyright law can you expect to get digital (pdf) publisher's versions of articles through inter-library loan.