February 11, 2010

Educational Videos and Copyright [9:43 am]

This has been percolating along for a while: Hitting Pause on Class Videos

In the latest clash of copyright law and instructional technology, the University of California at Los Angeles has stopping allowing faculty members to post copyrighted videos on their course Web sites after coming under fire from an educational media trade group.

The policy, enacted earlier this month, has been planned since last fall, when the Association for Information and Media Equipment — a group that protects the copyrights of education media companies — charged the university with violating copyright laws by posting the videos to the password-protected course Web pages without the proper permissions.

So far, UCLA is the only institution the organization has accused of such infractions. However, Allen Dohra, its president, told Inside Higher Ed that it is prepared to take on other colleges if it becomes clear that similar practices are taking place elsewhere. “We have leads in terms of other universities, and we do plan to investigate further,” said Dohra.

While the university maintains it has violated no laws, it has agreed to temporarily halt the practice while it tries to reach a settlement with the association. “We don’t want to litigate an issue that could potentially be resolved outside of the legal system,” said a university spokesman.

[...] The implications of the challenge extend well beyond practical inconveniences on the UCLA campus, said Tracy Mitrano, an information scholar and director of IT policy at Cornell University. “It touches on this much larger issue of the dissonance between technology and law that has a deleterious effect on higher education’s missions,” Mitrano said.

[...] “There are very legitimate and important arguments on both sides,” said Mitrano, noting the importance of maintaining strong incentives for the creation of new original work. However, the situation at UCLA is the latest reminder that copyright law needs to be rewritten before it does any more damage, she said.

“Copyright has been and continues to be a significant impediment in academic research and instruction,” said Mitrano. “Content owners and higher-education administrators and faculty, together with the associations that represent them, must sit down and figure out appropriate licensing, clearance, and fair use provisions in order not to hamper American higher education, if not global education, in pursuit of its mission.”

And don’t miss the comments. My favorite:

Stop playing defense
Posted by Timothy Burke , History at Swarthmore College on January 26, 2010 at 12:00pm EST

Sitting back and waiting for a legal resolution of these issues (whether through settlement or litigation) is a repeated mistake on the part of academic institutions and their faculty.

There are two simple steps that should follow on the initiation of a legal action like this one.

First, academic institutions should stop using in any form the work of publisher(s) who are unwilling to allow that work to be used in a functional form within existing educational practice. Stop buying it, stop using it. This is especially crucial for publisher(s) whose only important marketplace is academic institutions. If they want to foul their own nest, let them. A seller who doesn’t accomodate the needs of a buyer should find themselves without customers.

Second, as Prof Ed suggests, many publishers who sell to academic institutions also profit from the donated, uncompensated or poorly paid labor of academic experts. In effect, academic institutions subsidize the research or intellectual work of their own faculties, who then often give that work away to publishers, who then resell it back to the institutions at a high cost. This is a crazy, backward kind of economy, and actively inhibits what most academics are looking for out of dissemination and publication, namely, the accumulation of reputation capital rather than direct financial benefit. Faculty have to be prepared to walk away from any publisher seeking their participation in preparing educational materials or publication of research who is going to inhibit the use of those materials by other academics or is going to be constantly seeking new rents from those materials through legal or other means. We owe it to each other and to our employers. If faculty won’t voluntarily insist on such preconditions, then administrations should be prepared to offer very strong incentives for preferring open-source, open-access models for participating in the creation of educational materials or disseminating research results–and possibly strong sanctions against doing otherwise.

See also Universities Threatened Over Streaming of Educational Videos

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