University strikes reveal uncertainty over ownership of online courses – FE News



Without appropriate policies and practices in place, academics risk becoming “cheap YouTube stars”

As universities prepare for a new round of strikes, which will take place from December 1-3, they may wish to reuse online educational materials recorded during the pandemic to limit the impact on students.

But a new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute reveals confusion over who owns this recorded material or has the right to broadcast it. They may be the professors who prepared and taught the courses or the universities which employ them.

Based on interviews with legal experts and people involved in intellectual property (IP) litigation, Who owns the recordings of online conferences? (HEPI Policy Note 32), by Dr Alexis Brown, explores:

  1. who legally owns the copyright to the recorded lectures;
  2. who holds the license to use and distribute these recordings; and
  3. how the intellectual property policies of universities affect these issues.

Dr Alexis Brown, director of policy and advocacy at HEPI and author of the report, said:

Universities should think twice before considering reusing old lecture tapes to reduce the impact of the latest wave of strikes. Depending on what was agreed upon during the initial conference registration and their institutional intellectual property policy, it may not be legal for them to do so.

More generally, this topic clearly needs more discussion among academic staff – many of whom may not know what their institution’s policy is. Given how the pandemic has accelerated online learning in universities, universities may also now need to reassess whether their intellectual property policies are still fit for purpose.

It would be in everyone’s interest, including the interest of students, to ensure that these policies are developed in a collaborative and iterative manner as more teaching is delivered digitally. Students would benefit from a greater culture of trust between academics and university management on this issue.

High-profile cases overseas have highlighted the risks of reusing lecture tapes – for example, when a student at Concordia University in Canada emailed his professor to find he had died two years earlier.

Jenny Lennox, Head of Negotiations and Negotiations at the University and College Union, who called the strike, told HEPI that some university intellectual property policies developed before the pandemic now constitute a “massive seizure of rights” as staff do extra work to register their documents without any ownership rights. .

during this time Dr Matt Fisher, Senior Lecturer at UCL Law School, warned that without proper policies and practices in place, academics risked becoming “cheap YouTube stars.”

The new report finds that:

  • According to case law, copyright for online teaching material is likely to belong primarily to lecturers. However, since the license to use may be implied, whether universities are licensed to reuse course recordings may depend on what was agreed (explicitly or implicitly) when these recordings were first produced. It might even mean going back to emails to see what was communicated to staff when those recordings were first produced.
  • The intellectual property policies of many universities claim ownership and / or license rights to online teaching materials developed by their staff. However, due to the increase in the number of online documents created throughout the pandemic and the increasing prevalence of online education more generally, universities should review these intellectual property policies to determine if they are always suited to their purpose. University intellectual property policies should be developed iteratively and in collaboration with students and staff to ensure that these policies reflect the needs of all concerned.
  • Teachers should be familiar with the existing intellectual property policies of their university. Lecturers who are concerned or unsure of how their materials might be used may consider relying more explicitly on their research in their lectures to strengthen their intellectual property claim over these teaching materials, as many university politicians forgo the intellectual property claims on research results produced by staff. Teachers may also consider removing access to their materials from virtual learning environments at the end of the term to prevent reuse.

The digital landscape continues to reshape university education

While course recordings have become standard practice in UK universities, there is still significant ambiguity as to how and when such recordings can be used.

In part, says Fisher, this is because academic practice has not kept pace with technological changes in pedagogy; actors, for example, charge higher fees when they know their performances are being recorded, precisely because of the issues addressed in this play – but what is the equivalent practice for academics?

Without proper policies and practices in place, academics can essentially become “cheap YouTube stars,” in Fisher’s words.

Legal precedents suggest that, despite the CPDA, copyright in course materials still belongs to the academic who created them. Things are more obscure for licensing and may well come down to what has been agreed or implied in the emails.

Intellectual property policies of universities often claim ownership of course material, but these can be challenged on several fronts if, for example, they are too vague or present an affront to academic freedom.

These policies remain a point of negotiation and tension at universities across the country, as policies struggle to keep pace with the growing prevalence of online education.

GDPR issues are of particular concern when students are involved in recordings, but less so when the presence of the academic is the only one involved.

Recommendations

Three recommendations emerge from these conclusions:

  1. University management and faculty should be explicit about when and for what purposes any teaching material can be used, ideally in writing.
  2. University intellectual property policies should be developed iteratively and in collaboration with staff and students to ensure that these policies reflect the needs of all concerned. Due to the increase in the number of online media created throughout the pandemic and the increasing prevalence of online education more generally, universities without explicit intellectual property policies should develop them, and those that do not. already have policies should review their policies to determine if they are still fit for purpose.
  3. Teachers should be familiar with the existing intellectual property policies of their university. Lecturers who are concerned or unsure of how their materials might be used may consider relying more explicitly on their research in their lectures to strengthen their intellectual property claim over these teaching materials, as many university politicians forgo the intellectual property claims on research results produced by staff. Teachers may also consider removing access to their materials from virtual learning environments at the end of the term to prevent reuse.

Further work in this area is needed, particularly around labor law and data protection, to explore the issues that arise here.

But more conversation between university staff, students and management is clearly needed on this issue as well, as the digital landscape continues to reshape university education.

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