Policies, Copyright,
and Intellectual Property
Today’s distributed networked computing environment
has many interdependencies that require appropriate poli-
cies for effective management. There are also multiple laws
regarding privacy of information, management of licenses,
and use of copyrighted materials that must be respected.
These issues have been amplified as use of the network in
support of learning has increased.
Higher education institutions have always pushed the
envelope in the use of technology. The fact that many
members of a campus community are the youngest, most
willing to experiment, and most likely to be technologically
adept raises special policy issues. An additional element is
that students in many cases use their personal computers,
but also use an institutional network in accessing on-
campus and off-campus resources. They may feel that what
they do with their computers is a personal decision, but in
reality it has institutional implications. In this environ-
ment, without clearly understood policies, institutions will
always be fighting fires without a framework in which to do
so. Management policies run counter to the academic cul-
ture in this area, but institutions must take a proactive
stance that respects the culture of the institution.
Chapter 6 Where the Rubber Meets the Road
One major policy issue that e-learning has brought to
the fore is that of ownership of intellectual property. Uni-
versities have long recognized that creating knowledge is
one of their missions. More precisely, faculty members have
been creators of knowledge as a component of their
positions within the university. Traditionally, in cases
where there were recognized financial implications, such as
patents and writing textbooks, there have been institutional
policies regarding ownership rights and sharing of revenue.
Typically, institutions took no interest in ownership of text-
book rights, but negotiated case-by-case agreements relat-
ing to potential revenues from patentable intellectual
Online learning has introduced significant new issues
into the matter of relative ownership and has raised ques-
tions regarding the exact implications of the status of fac-
ulty members as employees and as teacher-scholars. When
teaching was a classroom activity, institutions provided the
students and classrooms, and managed the business issues
related to all components of the instructional system. Fac-
ulty members were happy to fit into this system and do
what they did best—organize and communicate informa-
tion and mentor students. In the e-learning world all of
these conditions are subject to change. Commercial, for-
profit vehicles are available to faculty as outlets for convey-
ing knowledge. On the other side, institutions can
disaggregate the components of offering a course, separat-
The Wired Tower
ing course design from course offering. In sum, the cottage
industry of an individual faculty member developing and of-
fering a custom course for each class of 30 or so students
need not be the only model, or even the predominant
model, in the future.
The flip side of the intellectual property issue is that of
copyright. Few, if any, courses are fully self-sufficient, de-
pending only on the instructor’s own materials. In a
classroom-focused, paper-based model there have been
long-standing traditions based on books and governed by
copyright to manage rights to use materials. This was chal-
lenged by technology 40 years ago with the rise of copy ma-
chines. The doctrine of fair use has been continually tested
by case law, ranging from issues related to individual stu-
dents copying materials, to copies on reserve in libraries, to
the creation of “course packs” of materials from different
publishers bundled together by the instructor and made
available at campus copy centers. Online learning again
stands to provide new challenges to appropriate use of oth-
ers’ intellectual property. The Digital Millennium Copyright
Act of 1998 attempts to define appropriate use in the digital
era, but clear definition in operational terms remains a
work in progress, and case law challenges are just beginning
to occur. Assuming individual faculty members and course
designers wish to do the right thing and universities wish to
advise them appropriately, much still needs to be clarified
to be able to accomplish these objectives.
Chapter 6 Where the Rubber Meets the Road

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