Instructional Materials: Course Packets, Handouts
The distribution of copyrighted material may be a concern to instructors because of changes in the copyright law of 1983, subsequent court cases, and the impact of the Board of Regents policies regarding the copying and distribution of handouts to students in lieu of texts or as a part of course instructional materials. Instructors who copy materials for handouts or provide copyrighted materials to students in their courses may unwittingly run afoul of the Regent policies or, worse, subject themselves and the University to liability for copyright infringement.
This document explains L&S procedures for review of course-packets composed of previously published and/or copyrighted materials.
Briefly, Regent policies intend that all required costs of instruction be covered with tuition and fees; these covered costs include typical duplicated instructional handout materials. If more extensive handouts or course packets are desirable, students must have the option of buying them or not (at least one copy or more, depending on the size of the class, must be placed on reserve), and only the costs of preparing and copying the handouts may be passed on to the students.
Copyright law states that appropriate permissions must be obtained, but the law permits limited copying of copyrighted materials for academic purposes, under the "fair use" doctrine. The campus Office of Administrative Legal Services provides answers to several frequently asked questions about copyright law, including questions concerning distribution of photocopies, materials found online, or distributing those materials in an online instructional environment.
Please refer to the Administrative Legal Services Links provided above for detailed discussion. At a minimum, consider the following general guidelines:
- Distributed materials are not used repeatedly; that is, you have not used them in preceding classes and you do not intend to use them in subsequent classes (semester by semester);
- No more than one handout is made for each student;
- The notice of copyright is included (usually, on the first page of each copy distributed); and
- In the case of longer materials and books, the portion copied is selective and sparing in comparison to the whole work (and does not duplicate an anthology, compilation, or collective works). Furthermore,
- For course packets, students must not be assessed a fee beyond the actual cost of reproduction, and upon payment the copy becomes the property of the student; or
- For online distribution, the institution or instructor must own a legal copy of the work, access to the materials must be limited to enrolled students, and access to those materials must be terminated when the course is over.