Massive online courses are a copyright curse

The Massive Open Online Courses – also known as MOOCs (Yes, that does look like what a cow would probably shout) – are a threat to the intellectual property rights of educators and scientists across the globe.

That is the core of Cary Nelson’s, a former president of the American Association of University Professors, argument, delivered during a speech at the association’s annual meeting.

“If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” Mr. Nelson warned. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity,” and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in “a service industry,” he said.

He described colleges’ efforts to claim ownership of MOOCs and other courses as “the first step in a broader assertion of ownership over a wide range of intellectual property,” and predicted that faculty members’ ownership of copyright for their works is “going to be under increasing assault.”

Basically, the argument here can be (I hope – correct me if I’m wrong) boiled down to this: do a MOOCs copyright belong to the university? Or is it the property of the lecturer? And how about the materials used in the MOOCs.

Or, perhaps put another way, say that Khan Academy used a textbook for their presentation that are then seen by millions of people on YouTube, generating commercial income. Now who gets what is a bit of an unknown.

I’m not trying to pick sides here, but I would raise the point that the internet – to a certain point – takes care of these issues on its own. No-one is really going to own it…

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