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MOOCs and Intellectual Property: Ownership and Use Rights

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become the buzzword these days.  Besides the interest and the hype associated with MOOCs, campuses are having serious discussions about the opportunities and challenges that these online courses pose.  The EDUCAUSE Executive Briefing, What Campus Leaders Need to Know About MOOCs, highlights a number of key issues for colleges and universities to understand about MOOCs, including intellectual property (IP) concerns.  MOOCs may not be as open as is suggested in the name when it comes to the topic of IP/copyright.  As noted in the Briefing, “Some commercial MOOC platforms have highly proprietary terms and conditions that claim ownership of course content and prohibit sharing or remixing of material.”   

Copyright Alert System Utilized in Infringement Lawsuit

The Copyright Alert System (CAS), which is a partnership between copyright owners and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), went into effect on February 25, 2013.  The goal of the CAS is to cut down on illegal peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted material and is devised to be an educational program.  (See EDUCAUSE blogs on February 26, 2013, October 23, 2012, April 5, 2012, and July 5, 2011 for background information.

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The Next Great Copyright Act

On March 20, 2013, Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, testified before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet where she advocated for an update to the copyright law.  Her testimony was based on her recent lecture at the Columbia Law School entitled the “Next Great Copyright Act.”

Highlights from her testimony included:

First Sale is Affirmed by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued its opinion, on March 19, 2013, in a case heard last fall that has implications for higher education.  The question before the Court was -  How do Section 602(a)(1) of the Copyright Act, which prohibits the importation of a work without the authority of the copyright’s owner, and Section 109(a) of the Copyright Act, which allows the owner of a copy “lawfully made under this title” to sell or otherwise dispose of the copy without the copyright owner’s permission, apply to a copy that was made and legally acquired abroad and then imported into the United States?

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ECPA Reform Update: House Hearing and Senate and House Bills Introduced

ECPA reform is an important topic for Congress this session.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has championed this reform and says that it is an important agenda item for the Committee.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) said that modernizing the privacy act to "reflect our current digital economy" will be a priority for his committee. 

Copyright Alert System Goes into Effect

A copyright protection system, enforced by the major Internet service providers (ISPs), went into effect on February 25, 2013.  The Copyright Alert System (CAS), which is a partnership between copyright owners and ISPs, was first announced in 2011, but implementation has been delayed.  The goal of the CAS is to cut down on illegal peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted material.  (See EDUCAUSE blogs on October 23, 2012, April 5, 2012, and July 5, 2011 for background information.)

Increasing Access to Federally Funded Scientific Research: Initiatives from the White House and the Congress

A new bill mandating Open Access to federally-funded research was just introduced into both houses of Congress.  Entitled the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research ACT (FASTR), it was introduced on February 14, 2013 in the Senate (S. 350) by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and in the House (H.R. 708) by Mike Doyle (D-PA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Kevin Yoder (R-KS). 

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America’s Call for Higher Education Redesign

The most recent Lumina Foundation and Gallup report, "America's Call for Higher Education Redesign," was released on February 5, 2013.  The findings suggest that the respondents acknowledge the critical role of postsecondary education in employment and financial stability, but think the current model is flawed.  Three-quarters said college is unaffordable, and more than half said the quality of higher education is the same as or worse than in the past.

Some of the questions addressed in the study are:

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EDUCAUSE Groups Briefed on ECPA Reform and Its Implications for Higher Education

As part of Data Privacy Month on January 29, 2013, Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the Director of its Project on Freedom, Security & Technology, briefed EDUCAUSE’s Higher Education Chief Privacy Officers group and the Higher Education Information Security Council (HEISC) Working Groups on Government, Risk, and Compliance and Technologies, Operations, and Practices on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (

FTC Issues New Report on Mobile Privacy Disclosures

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report on February 1, 2013 that says it wants — but is not mandating — makers of mobile operating systems, app developers, and advertisers to be provide "timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used."  In the report, "Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency," the FTC said that most consumers are concerned, and often confused, about how mobile privacy operates.  "More than other types of technology, mobile devices are typically personal to an individual, almost always on, and with the user," the FTC said in the report. "This can facilitate unprecedented amounts of data collection."

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