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Using Content in Course Packs

A course pack is a collection of journal, magazine, or newspaper articles; book excerpts; and other materials selected by a course instructor for distribution to students as required or supplemental reading. While course packs can be produced by libraries and print services within an academic institution, they are also often produced by external vendors such as copy shops.

Before 1991, it was widely believed that reproduction—primarily by photocopying—for academic course packs qualified as fair use. As a result, course pack anthologies were often compiled and distributed without the permission of copyright holders. Two court decisions changed this thinking.

  • In 1991, a federal trial court ruled that Kinko’s copying of portions of books for use in an academic course pack was not fair use. (Basics Books Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp.)
  • In 1996, a federal Court of Appeals upheld a different trial court’s decision against a copy shop owner who copied course material for students and instructors. (Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services.)

It is now well-established that photocopying materials for academic course packs requires permission from the copyright holder or its agent. If you rely on external course pack producers, it is critical to confirm that these vendors have acquired the appropriate copyright permission. Without this permission, both the copy shop and Boise State risk being found liable for copyright infringement.

E-course packs are online collections of journal, magazine, or newspaper articles; book excerpts; and other materials that a course instructor gathers as required or supplemental reading for students. Like their paper-based counterparts, e-course packs require copyright permission from the copyright holder or its agent.

Obtaining Copyright Permission for Course Packs

The course instructor, librarian, or the course pack producer (copy shop) may be responsible for obtaining the necessary rights to include copyrighted material in a course pack. When requesting copyright permission for course pack materials, be sure to include the following information:

  • as much information as possible about your specific use (photocopy, intranet posting, or use within a course-management system)
  • the length of time you wish to use the materials
  • the number of students expected to have access to these works

Based on the information you provide, the copyright holder will specify permission details, terms and conditions, as well as any applicable fees.

Copyright permission for course packs is usually granted by the academic period. To reuse a course pack in subsequent academic periods (semester, quarter, trimester, etc.), you probably need to obtain permission again. Many copyright holders provide time-sensitive permission because their own rights may be time-sensitive and could be transferred to different copyright holders at any time.