Some of the faculty members in a particular academic department want to post their published articles on the institution's external website in PDF format. Will publishers readily give permission for this?

It depends. If a faculty author owns the copyright, certainly he or she may post the article. If the author has transferred the entire copyright to the journal publisher, then naturally permission must be requested to post the article in any format. If the faculty author retained the electronic rights to the article, then the article may be posted on a web page without permission. Some copyright transfer agreements even state that the author may place the work on the web six months or a year after it appears first in the journal. So, there is no across-the-board answer; instead, it depends on what rights were transferred to the publisher and the language of the actual copyright transfer. Faculty authors could seek permission from the publisher to post these PDFs.

Is it necessary to password protect course web pages, Blackboard pages, and the like, or can they be accessed by anyone?

It depends on the contents of the web page or the course management software site. Should the web page contain no material copyrighted by anyone other than the faculty member, no password is required under copyright law. If copies of copyrighted works, or even portions of such works, are included on a web page without permission of the copyright holder, however, access to this material should be restricted to members of the class. If the copyrighted material consists of such things as articles and book chapters, then placing them on a web page or Blackboard page (or any other course management software page) for students to use should conform to fair use under the Guidelines on Multiple Copying for Classroom Use (Classroom Guidelines). Password protection or another method of restricting access to students enrolled in the class is crucial.

If the copyrighted material consists of material that is performed or displayed to students, the TEACH Act, section 110(2) of the Copyright Act, also requires that access to the material be restricted to students enrolled in the course. Only the course web pages that contain these copyrighted works must be restricted. Should the faculty member so desire, the course web pages that do not contain copyrighted works may remain open to anyone.

When posting materials on course management software (e.g., Blackboard) for a class, if the articles and chapters are documented and properly cited, is it necessary to seek permission to post them? Or is documenting/citing the source enough to satisfy copyright concerns?

This question mixes two things: copyright and plagiarism. The copyright concern is reproducing the materials in the first place because reproduction is one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. Plagiarism is claiming original authorship of someone else's work or incorporating it without adequate acknowledgement. So copyright is not concerned with citing or attribution typically, but with reproduction, distribution, display, and so forth.

Before the development of the web and course management software, faculty members often photocopied handouts and distributed them to the members of a class. The Guidelines on Multiple Copying for Classroom Use (Classroom Guidelines), published in House Report 94-1476, were negotiated guidelines that Congress endorsed in 1976 as a good balance of the interests of publishers and those of educators. They specified which activities and within what limits would constitute fair use for producing handouts of copyrighted works for students in nonprofit educational institutions. One requirement is that the faculty member seek permission when the same item is used as a handout for a second term. In the electronic environment, this means that an article posted for a class on Blackboard (within the limits of the Guidelines) requires permission for use in subsequent class terms, and must be password protected to ensure that it is accessed only by students enrolled in the course.

An excellent alternative is to provide a link to the item on the web or to a licensed resource to which the educational institution subscribes. No permission is needed to link.

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