Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who owns online course materials?

In my discussion section this week, I asked my students who they thought should own online course materials of the sort that are found on iTunes University.  We pondered a number of different answers and the contradictions between different views of intellectual property, ownership, and commons.  These are not just philosophical discussions; an article in Inside Higher Ed today talks of a case hinging on just this question:
Jeff MacSwan and Kellie Rolstad, a husband-and-wife team at Arizona State University, heard rumors last year that courses they designed for an online program were being used without their permission.
So in the summer of 2011, MacSwan registered as a student in an English as a Second Language program for which the couple, both tenured professors, had developed courses. In his telling, he logged on to discover that the courses he and his wife, an associate professor of linguistics, had created were being used without attribution or authorization.
A lawsuit is now likely as MacSwan and Rolstad claim damages for alleged violation of copyright laws and university rules.
The couple left Arizona State and are now employed as tenured professors in the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park. Their lawyer sent a notice of claim, a legal notice that precedes a lawsuit, to the Arizona Board of Regents and the state’s attorney general in December, calling for $3 million in damages.
You can read the rest of the story, reported by Kaustuv Basu, here.   How do you think this case should be decided?

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I said in our discussion, was that it should be up to the author or professor. I think the University should originally have ownership over it, but if the author wants to take over control they should be able to. Not sure if this is exactly related, but I said that the University should only allow students and faculty to use the materials that are available online. Make them only available during the semester they are being offered, and make a username and password required. This would stop most of the unwanted usage. But I still think it should come down to whether or not the authors want to own their content/control it. If they do, let them share it or keep it how they want it. If not, it should be under the University's jurisdiction.


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