I have a class in a US university that is using a 3rd-party site to charge students a fee to access some of the homework essential to the course. One of the instructors (not mine) holds the copyright to these required Excel spreadsheets, and so every student is being assessed a small fee in order to complete their homework.
With online classes using an ebook publisher's website, paying to be able to do homework is common practice. But that fee is usually assessed and disclosed as part of the textbook/ebook access fee. For this course, we are already paying such a fee for the ebook publisher's website.
Is it normal (or generally acceptable) for an instructor to create a privately-owned website in order to collect "copyright fees" from students because that instructor created original homework files? Is it normal for instructors to require students to pay to use intangible, intellectual property? Or, failing being a regular occurrence, does it at least happen with a high enough frequency to be a noticed, if not often used, practice?
We are explicitly being told the charge is for the use of the copyrighted materials and is a copyright fee, rather than a licensing or maintenance fee. I've never come across this or even heard of it being done before, so I call on the experience of those more grounded in academic norms.
This isn't a matter of purchasing supplies or textbook fees, as those are already assessed by the University or comply with University policy. The nature of the assignment and materials is also not so complex or technically difficult that assignments, or reasonable alternatives, could not be provided using existing University resources.
While I greatly appreciate the input of the SE community, I know that I also have ways to investigate this at my specific institution and am not using SE as a substitute for doing my own due diligence.