Most content — articles, books, unpublished manuscripts, tables, figures, photographs — is owned (copyrighted) by someone. There are laws and policies that affect reuse of such content for any purpose, such as putting material on the Web for a course, or reusing it in another work.
Scholarly Publishing at MIT Libraries provides an overview of what content is copyrighted, under what conditions permission is required for reuse of that content, and how to seek permission for reuse if needed.
- Copyright FAQ
- Using copyrighted content — fair use, license agreements, using images & figures, and how to cite.
- OA publishing support
Taking articles, book chapters, etc., that have already been published, collating the content, having it printed and bound by a third party makes it a form of publishing, and is not legal according to US Copyright Law. If one wants to use already published materials, permission must be obtained in writing from the publisher for each item one wants to use. The practice of creating course packs is using third party content (and generally) for which one has sought copyright permissions and re- publishing. The act of using a service to repackage the content is considered publishing.
The idea of course packs as paper objects was illegal and in the 1990s, there were a couple of major lawsuits in which universities were sued for creating paper course packs and making them available to students (these were also, by the way, sold to students). There are at least two issues that led to the suits. One is using already published content and repackaging it as another form of publication, and two, selling that "publication" to students.