Category Archives: Copyright

Professor’s legal win will make MOOCs more dynamic

By Lowell Neumann Nickey

Cinema Studies professor Peter Decherney

Cinema Studies professor Peter Decherney

One professor’s legal victory means more content and less confusion for massive open online courses throughout the country.

Peter Decherney, a Cinema Studies professor at Penn, contributed to recent efforts towards a copyright exemption for Massive Open Online Courses that require content protected under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. On Oct. 28, the exemption was approved by the U.S. Copyright Office, meaning Decherney and his colleagues had accomplished what they had set out to do.

Decherney testified in May with help from the American University Washington College of Law intellectual property law clinic and the American Library Association. At the time, the DMCA did not allow professors to use digitally protected videos for online courses, despite professors being allowed to scan and distribute written course material. The exemption will allow MOOC professors to utilize copyrighted movies, television shows and Blu-ray videos for the first time.

Using clips is essential to the types of classes Decherney teaches. “The lectures for my course are very heavily illustrated with clips and other kinds of images, and they wouldn’t make sense without the clips,” he told Penn Current. “To hear me describe a film image is OK, but if you can’t see it, you’re really not going to understand what I’m talking about.”

Decherney speculated that the exemption could be useful outside of cinema studies. “It might also be true in a foreign language class, where you want to see the expression on someone’s face as you’re watching them speak. It could also be used in a biology class, looking at a detailed microscopic image from a science video. It has implications across the curriculum,” he told Penn Current.

This victory could have widespread impact across education in the country as the exemption allows for-profit learning platforms such as Coursera to use copyrighted material alongside traditional, nonprofit schools.

[ Full article available at The Daily Pennsylvanian: ]



Fair Use and MOOCs

By Francesca Giannetti and David Hunter

As Fair Use Week begins, Francesca Giannetti and David Hunter considers the use of readily and legally available digital media for MOOCs.

Their experience stems from assisting a University of Texas professor with an online jazz appreciation course.

In helping University of Texas at Austin professor Jeff Hellmer identify and include audio and video recordings as he set up his jazz appreciation course, first offered January 2014, Francesca Giannetti and I considered numerous streaming or downloading possibilities. To rely on fair use in the context of an open educational resource, where the course audiovisuals would be posted on YouTube, was untested legal ground. In our view Professor Hellmer’s uses were fair, such as 7-10 seconds of a song, embedded in a lecture, to illustrate a point.

But a potential problem existed inasmuch as a challenge by a content owner would require removal of specific material, which would ruin the lecture, unless the institution was ready to be sued or file a declaratory judgment action against the accuser.  At that time we had not witnessed the example of Lawrence Lessig, who, when served in August 2013 with a take-down request by Liberation Music Pty Ltd., countered with a declaratory judgment request, and was successful. We knew that Sony BMG, for example, tolerates nothing as fair, even if we were to utilize DMCA Section 512’s provision to counterclaim fair use, with a full explanation. When the question becomes “is it worth engaging in a lawsuit to prove that 7 seconds of a song, used transformatively to illustrate a point is fair, or do we take down that audiovisual?”, most of us don’t enjoy the luxury of the resources to file the lawsuit.

During course development the MOOC platform’s technicians highlighted the audio and video that was available through YouTube, and agreed to make the links inactive after a relatively short period. Of course, the files were still available on YouTube itself after that time, so it remained possible for students to return to them directly.

This illustrates a balance of practicality and limitation of risk in the ever-changing and challenging environment of information provision of recorded sound and video. This provision remains the property of multi-national businesses that have very little interest in encouraging the educational use of their property, and even less in admitting that fair use principles apply to current modes of delivery.

In the music streaming group, we’ve got Spotify, Rhapsody, Deezer for our friends in Europe, Rdio, and Microsoft’s Xbox Music (and many, many others), Google’s Play Music All Access, and Apple’s iRadio. And don’t forget VEVO for music videos.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]


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A MOOC on copyright

By Kevin Smith, J.D.

It has taken a while to get here, but I am happy to be able to announce that two of my colleagues and I  will be offering a four-week MOOC on copyright designed to assist teachers and librarians deal with the daily challenges they encounter in regard to managing what they create and using what they need.

The MOOC will be offered on the Coursera platform and will run for the first time starting July 21.  It is available as of today for folks to sign up at

It has been a great pleasure working with Anne Gilliland from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Lisa Macklin from Emory University to create this course.  I hope and believe that the course is much stronger because the three of us worked together than it could possibly have been if any one of us did it alone.

This course will be four weeks in duration and focuses on U.S. copyright law.  While we are well aware of all the MOOC participants from other countries — and welcome folks from all over to join us — we also wanted to keep the course short and as focused as possible.  We hope perhaps to do other courses over time, and a more in-depth attention to international issues and to how copyright works on the global Internet might be a good future topic.  In the meanwhile, this course deals with the U.S. law and the specific situations and issues that arise for librarians and educators at all levels.

We especially hope to attract K-12 teachers, who encounter many of the same issues that arise in higher education, and who often have even fewer resources to appeal to for assistance.  That is one reason for the summertime launch.

[ Full article available at Scholarly Communications @ Duke: ]

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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Best Practices, Copyright


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How will MOOCs Affect Fair Use and Copyright Compliance?

As more institutions consider offering Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs), we wanted to investigate what impact these open-enrollment online courses might have on copyright compliance issues for faculty in higher education. To learn more, we turned to copyright and fair use policy experts Steven McDonald, general counsel for the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Kevin Smith, director of scholarly communications for Duke University’s Perkins Library.

Here are the insights that McDonald and Smith shared with us, related to issues of both copyright compliance and ownership.


Reduce your legal liability by better understanding how to interpret and apply copyright law to teaching, research, and scholarship. Join Steven McDonald, Kevin Smith, and Academic Impressions online in February 2013 for this two-part webcast series; our expert instructors will walk you through many sample scenarios.

[ Full article available at Academic Impressions: ]

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Best Practices, Copyright