Friday, February 13, 2015

Can We Copy Textbook Chapters?

Dear Rich: The Vice President of Academic Affairs of the two-year state technical college I work at told all Program Chairs it was ok to copy and attach "a chapter or two" of their course's textbook and attach it to their learning management system (ANGEL) "if students are having difficulty obtaining a textbook." Is this justification, or action, permitted under the educational fair use of copyrighted materials? As a result, some faculty are copying many chapters of a given textbook and posting to the LMS. Do you have any specific examples, or documented cases, where this type of justification (students do not have access to a textbook due to bookstore shortages or late distribution of financial aid awards) that is permissible? Permission must be obtained from the copyright owners of the textbooks for the type of wholesale copying you’re describing. It sounds like your college is, in essence, creating digital coursepacks. This is not a fair use. Educational fair use guidelines established by publishers and the academic community do allow some limited copying by teachers for classroom use. But these guidelines do not permit the copying of multiple book chapters you’re describing. You can read more about them in Copyright Office Circular 21. Answered by Stephen Fishman, author of The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know