Week 3: Openness and Ownership

On ‘Openness and Ownership’

Audrey Watters discusses several issues related to openness in education: how do we define ‘open education’, what does it mean and how do we solve the intellectual property dilemma. These are certainly questions that are hard to even discuss without some background and deeper research. In her post about the decisions made by Prince George’s County Board of Education, I certainly think that they took it too far. It just didn’t make sense to have employees and student work in the same sentence when defining intellectual property: two very different roles. The decision made contradicts completely with what education is. It almost sounds like making the statement that any work created on an MacBook or iPad, etc, should be owned by Apple. But perhaps it is not that simple.

I started looking into MSU Denver’s policies on intellectual property. I work for the University and I have been hearing the debate often, especially when it comes to development and teaching of online courses. and especially from faculty from the English department. I am almost sure that currently the policy states that copyright to work created in courses belongs to the University. Surprisingly, it was very challenging locating any relevant information on the issue. I was able to find the minutes from the Faculty Senate with the audio recordings but most of the information seemed to be requested to be emailed, discussion points to be submitted as attachments to person’s email, etc.Just didn’t seem very transparent process. Shouldn’t these issues beamed public (in the University domain) alone with any supported documentation?

So the first document I was able to find was a proposition to the language of the policy made by Faculty Senate committee members, in particular faculty and Chairs from technical communication, arts and music departments. Now it almost made sense that the issue of royalties for online courses was brought up. Almost. so here what these committee members suggested to change in the policy regarding to intellectual property: “Ownership: Intellectual property created, made, or originated by a faculty member shall be the sole and exclusive property of the faculty, author, or inventor, except as he or she may voluntarily choose to transfer such property, in full, or in part. Three limited and expressly defined sets of circumstances exist in which the University may claim ownership of the copyright.”

Here are the questions discussed in the same meeting that took place two years ago:
1. Can faculty’s IP (Intellectual Property)ever be distributed without their authorization?
2. Should online courses ever developed as “work for hire”?
3. Can faculty retain royalties from IP they assign in their courses?
Two years later, a decision is still pending.

My initial thought was that first, if it had to be somebody’s property it should be the University property. Otherwise, those who demand royalties can sign up with a producer or sell their work on iTunes if that is their goal and mission. But if they are teaching in a public university than may be focus on teaching more and less on how to receive royalties from the online course they are paid for already. My second thought was, if it were University property than how can we get about creating open educational resources? would the University own them? Or there will be a special exception?


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