Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Coursepack Blues: Don't Count on Fair Use

Dear Rich: I plan to assemble and sell a coursepack on writing nonfiction. This coursepack will consist of writing and revising methods gleaned from various writing books (Strunk and White, On Writing Well, etc.) and will also include worksheets (which my team will create and design from scratch). Is it fair use to build on their material in this way, or do I have to ask the publishers for permission? 
We think that if you're taking more than a few blocks of text from each book, you should ask for permission. Even if you make a fair use argument (as they tried to do in this case), you probably can't afford to battle your way through a federal appeal. Also, keep in mind that publishers have aggressively pursued coursepack makers, sometimes to set an example, and sometimes to recover a half-million dollars. If there's a chance that publishers will learn of your use, if you're affiliated with a business or educational institution, or if you're going to seek a publisher, you should definitely seek permission.

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