Controlled Digital Lending

Controlled digital lending (CDL) is a framework under which the Libraries can scan up to the full text of a print work in our possession and lend it electronically.

CDL is permissible by virtue of the ‘first sale doctrine’ in copyright law. It carries certain restrictions and digital controls that make the electronic version of the work restricted to one user at a time. These digital controls also inhibit copying, printing, and redistribution of the work. You can learn more at the CDL website.

One of the important limitations is that only one person can use the digital version at a time, for each physical copy we have in our possession. This replicates the physical world experience, where one person can borrow one print book at a time. 

The Libraries have elected to utilize a software called Digify to apply electronic controls to works we loan under a CDL framework.

CDL does not enable a faculty member to post an e-copy in Canvas, or even post a link to a work that all students can access. Students will still have to borrow the e-copy one person at a time, per copy, just as they would with print reserves.

FAQ - General Information

Does CDL allow for scanning the whole book (100%), or just a portion?
The entirety of a book (100%) can be scanned and loaned under CDL.

Can I “borrow” CDL items 24 hours a day?
No. Much like visiting the course reserves desk in the library, scanned materials have to be distributed by a member of the libraries’ personnel. Currently, requests will be processed during the library’s open hours. Please check our website for the latest hours. 

I am a student. How can I borrow CDL materials on reserve for my class? 
Items that have been scanned and made available through controlled digital lending will show up at our Virtual Reserves Desk. You have the ability to pick any available time slot for utilizing the material through this system, using your Andrew ID. A member of library personnel will email you a link to your reserves material via Andrew e-mail at the beginning of your time slot. At the end of your time slot, the link will automatically be deactivated.

You can also find items that have been made available via CDL for your course through the course reserves search on our website. Search by your professor’s name, or course number. Your course’s titles will be listed with a link that will take you directly to that title at our virtual reserves desk. 

Please note that when a book is on e-reserve, it means that the physical book is not available for borrowing. 

I am a student. Can I print or download my electronic course reserve?
No. Electronic course reserves loaned through our virtual reserves desk cannot be printed or downloaded, due to the legal requirement for us to apply controls that prevent the copying and redistribution of the material.

I am a faculty member. Can I request that a print book be scanned for CDL from the library? How does it work?
You can request scanning of our print materials through the reserves request form. Please indicate in the Notes field whether you need the full work, or just selected chapters or page numbers.

Based on the specifics of your request, we can supply you with scanned electronic material under one of two access paths.

  • Controlled Digital Lending: If your request comprises more than a single chapter or 10% of a book, we can scan the content for you, up to 100% of the work - and lend it to you in a controlled manner.

    Utilizing content controls, only one person at a time can use the scanned material. You will be sent a link to a restricted PDF file with a time limit. This file cannot be printed, or shared. Once your time limit expires, you will no longer be able to access the file, and we will be able to “loan” the electronic item to another user.  Users can borrow this type of scanned material an unlimited number of times. When the time limit expires, if no one else is waiting for the material, you can immediately borrow it again. The time limit simply ensures our ability to facilitate sharing if there are multiple users trying to utilize the item. This is very comparable to having a single copy of a book on course reserve in the library, where one student can borrow the item to study from it for 2 hours at a time, and then return it to the desk.

    While a book is being shared electronically through controlled digital lending, the physical copy will be sequestered from our collections and cannot be loaned to users. 


  • Fair Use: If your request comprises only a single chapter from a book, or 10% or less of its length, we can scan the content for you and send it to you in standard PDF format. You will be able to post this content in your course, read, print, or share this material as you normally would any standard PDF content. Items that have been scanned and made available through fair use will be e-mailed directly to the requestor as soon as the scan is completed. You can read more about fair use and copyright at CMU on the following pages: CMU Fair Use Policies, Copyright @ CMU.

I am a faculty member who e-mailed the library to request scanning a couple of weeks ago. Do I need to resubmit my request through the form on the website?
No. Any requests received via e-mail or sent through library personnel previously is in process and does not need to be resubmitted through the web form.

I am a faculty member. After you have scanned my CDL item, can I post in in my course on Canvas?
No. CDL does not enable a faculty member to post an e-copy in Canvas, or even post a link to a work that all students can access simultaneously. Students will still have to come to the library to borrow the e-copy one person at a time, per copy, just like with physical/print reserves. 

Standard PDF scans of single book chapters or limited page ranges will be sent directly to the requestor and, under fair use, can be posted to Canvas or otherwise distributed and copied.

I am a faculty member. Can I put one of my personal items on e-reserve using CDL?
Yes. The library typically accepts faculty-owned materials to temporarily circulate on course reserve in the physical library, and similarly, we can accept faculty-owned materials to digitize for use with CDL. However, we will have to find a way to ensure that the physical material remains sequestered from use as long as the CDL copy is available; for instance, by securely storing it in our physical reserves area for the duration of the semester. Contact the library to discuss your needs.

I am a faculty member. I’ve requested that an item be scanned for use in my course. How long does it take to fulfill my request?
We currently have limited capacity to process scanning requests. At present, we are only able to process requests from faculty members for course reserve use for Fall 2020. We are aiming to complete scanning requests within two weeks of the request. Your request may be fulfilled faster depending on the overall volume of requests. Requests are being fulfilled in the order that they are received, and required course readings are being prioritized over supplemental or optional course readings. We hope to expand this offering more widely soon.

If you have a scanning request that you believe is an emergency request requiring special attention, please contact Amy Perrier, Head of Library Access Services (