Using Content: Coursepacks
Test Your Copyright Knowledge
What You Need To Know

A coursepack 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 coursepacks can be produced by libraries and print services within an academic institution, they are also often produced by external vendors such as copy shops.

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

It is now well established that photocopying materials for academic coursepacks requires permission from the copyright holder or its agent. If your institution relies on external coursepack producers, it is critical to confirm that these vendors have acquired the appropriate copyright permission. Without this permission, both the copy shop and the academic institution that orders the coursepacks risk being found liable for copyright infringement.

E-coursepacks 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. E-coursepacks, like their paper-based counterparts, require copyright permission from the copyright holder or its agent.

Obtaining Copyright Permission for Coursepacks
The course instructor, librarian or the coursepack producer (copy shop) may be responsible for obtaining the necessary rights to include copyrighted material in a coursepack. Check your institutional copyright compliance policy to determine the appropriate procedures for your institution. When requesting copyright permission for coursepack materials, be sure to include:

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

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

Copyright permission for coursepacks is usually granted by the academic period. To reuse a coursepack in subsequent academic periods (e.g.: 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.