How to ethically use articles and reports from databases licensed by a library?

This question is quite astute as it allows me to consider both academic integrity as well as complying with copyright and licensing requirements. I’m periodically asked whether one can send an article or a report from a licensed database by our University Library to someone outside of our University’s library. The gist:

Don’t share, just cite

Source: Olivier Charbonneau, Senior Librarian, Concordia University (Montréal)

To expand on this simple guideline I can provide the following insight: our licensing agreements with most of our vendors do not allow members of the University Community to send the verbatim or full reports to parties from the external community. So, please do not forward PDFs from our licensed databases outside of our University. Caveat: anything on the “free web” – such as websites/reports from governments – are free to share in full (as per the Canadian Copyright Act).

I know this is unfortunate but I offer you a silver lining: members of the university community are allowed to read, learn and cite from reports or articles from our licensed databases to draft summaries or briefs. In addition, you can cite from multiple sources to craft a really powerful synthesis of a complex business topic. This resulting paper is your own, as long as you cite short but salient passages from reports or articles our licensed databases and provide the source in a proper bibliography (footnotes and/orendnotes).

This advice stems from a simple ethical rule in research: if you share a single source in full, this is usually called stealing… but if you cite salient but short passages from multiple sources and provide proper references, this is called research. The resulting research paper is yours: the authors of the research paper own the copyright of the resulting paper with citations and can leverage or mobilize it as they wish, like selling it to a client or posting it on the free web.

This is the ethical rule in authorship, in line with various complex copyright or licensing requirements, that exemplifies best practices for the university community. In addition, it also provides for a “value-added” service for business analysis: selecting and arranging salient business insight in a research brief. Believe it or not, this is what you are groomed to do in our business school. Your question exemplifies best practices, that of validating with a colleague how best to proceed given a novel or uncertain context.

In addition to the above insight, please allow me to point out the following resources I’ve created to support Canadian entrepreneurs:

1. I have created a “quick list” of best resources on the free web for entrepreneurship research on this post on my work blog: Researching a business plan using free sources

2. My “expanded” list of resources, with licensed databases from our collection, is on the Library website: Entrepreneurship research guide

In closing, please note that this summer, I shall be overhauling my research guides and corresponding YouTube tutorials, so these sources will shift in the coming months, as fast as this humble librarian (and single dad from an undisclosed location deep in the Montréal Suburbs) can crank out web and video Open Educational Resources. Please consult my work blog,, for updates.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 2020-06-22 à 3:09 pm.


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