If you require your students to read any journal articles or other copyrighted material for completing your Web-based course, you will need to decide how to legally provide that material to students. Depending on multiple factors, such as cost of the course, security of the Website, where the course is "housed", level of interactivity, and the timeline for completing the course, you may decide to have students retrieve copyrighted materials on their own or may want to provide all materials to them. If you decide to provide the materials, you may have one or more of the options listed below available for obtaining needed permissions. You will want to allow yourself at least 8-10 weeks to obtain copyright permissions.
Use Fair Use Guidelines
Copyright law is still unsettled in the online environment, so before choosing this option, you will definitely want to read up on copyright and make sure you CAN indeed claim fair use. Also, remember, if you intend to use the same article more than one time, you will have to request permission before teaching the course again.
Below is a resource on fair use:
Get help from the University Library
If you are teaching a course with University support, the University Library may offer an Electronic Reserves service where they will get copyright clearance for you and make the material available through their online library. In most cases, students will need a user ID and password to be authenticated to use the service. Or, even if the library doesn't have an Electronic Reserves service, they may have a service for helping faculty obtain copyright clearance.
Create a print coursepack to send students
Depending on the resources you have available to you, you could have a commercial copy center request permissions, make print copies, and sell a course pack to your students. In a distance course, this may not be an effective way of distributing materials. Your students may be located throughout the world, so mailing the coursepacks would be a logistical matter. The development and distribution of the coursepack would also be an additional cost that is most likely passed on to the students.
Request permission on your own
You may also directly request permission to use copyrighted materials. You can set up an account with the Copyright Clearance Center and in many cases get instant permission to use material. There is generally a fee charged by the copyright holder for use of material. In some instances you may be more likely to receive blanket permission or pay reduced fees to use a copyrighted work if you write a letter directly to the copyright holder. Depending on who owns the copyright, you may also have better success at obtaining permission to use an article or other copyrighted work if you are turned down by the Copyright Clearance Center. When you do receive permission to use copyrighted material, unless it is a blanket permission, you only have permission to use the work one time. Each time you offer the course you will need to request permission again.
Below are some resources on obtaining copyright permission: