Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wants to Create iBooks Coursebook

Dear Rich: I am a middle school Social Studies teacher who is exploring the possibility of creating my own course textbook using iBook Author. I do not plan to distribute the book via the iTunes store, but will post the file for download on a password-protected website accessible only by faculty and students of my school. What I would like to to is collect information from various online articles and websites and put it together in a way that is custom-fit to my course. For instance: for a chapter on globalization, I would like to use information from this National Geographic webpage: This information would be combined (in the text of the iBook) with information from a textbook (of which the school purchased class sets). I would not be reproducing all of the material in its entirety, but would be paraphrasing and using excerpts. All photos included in the book would be obtained from websites such as wikimedia commons and would be copyright-free. I would like to know if I need to obtain permission (from the websites and textbook publisher) to use this kind of information since: it is for educational use; I am not making profit; it is being distributed only to my students; and we have purchased the textbooks from the publishers. How should I go about citing said work? It sounds like what you're doing is creating a course pack -- we've written about the legal rules for course packs at the Stanford Fair Use site -- and if your course pack is discovered by one of the copyright owners (such as National Geographic), you (and your school) could find a cease and desist letter in the mailbox. That's because if you're copying from online articles and from text books without permission, then you're probably infringing (regardless of the educational purpose). It's possible that if you use only excerpts and paraphrasing, you will limit your liability and it may even be excused as a fair use. However, a court would have to be the final word on those issues.
All that said ... By the way, purchasing the textbooks doesn't grant you the right to reproduce material, it only gives you the right to resell the textbook, a principle known as the first sale doctrine. Of course, you're free to assume the associated risks with placing your books on a password protected website. As we've said before, you won't get sued if the copyright owner never learns of your infringement (or if the owner learns about it but doesn't care).