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Brian Cockburn Brian Cockburn's principal role is to teach and advise faculty, administrators and students about copyright, and intellectual property.
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Phone: 8-6978

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Academic Impact

Preface

Copyright and intellectual property issues are becoming increasingly important within the academic endeavor.  New media and commercialization, varied approaches to scholarly communication and technology, and laws and litigation have the potential to dramatically change how we go about teaching, learning, and research.

The full range of copyright rights constitute a monstrously bloated set of rights that no one in academe needs to encourage research and writing.  Being thoughtful about how we manage those rights is becoming increasingly important.

New Media and Monetizing

The Center for Social Media states:

New norms of information sharing...are emerging at the very moment when copyright owners are attempting to capture new revenue streams from various sources, including the “educational market.” (more)

Media and information outlets are looking for ways to increase revenue and ascribe value to information.  This includes not only what they produce, but repackaging other's work and attempting to derive new revenue from that.

At the same time, teaching, learning, and publishing have moved into new modes of expression such as video, podcasts, blogs, and other social media.  The participants in the academic community are moving as well.

...there is a climate of increased fear and confusion about copyright, which detracts from the quality of teaching. (more)

The current climate is creating opportunities for those same media and information sources, above, to leverage the designed ambiguity within copyright, in general, and exceptions to the exclusive rights (like 107 Fair Use, exemptions 110(1) and 110(2), and 108), in particular.

These trends make it more crucial that faculty and students begin to manage their own work.  Additionally, we need to become more confident in asserting our rights to the exceptions.

New Scholarly Communication Models

Open access journals, institutional archives, online theses and dissertations, and new publication media are changing the face of scholarly communication.  Many of these new communication models have made "scooping" freely available information easier than ever.  Additionally, technology is being developed by those same media providers (refered to, above) that enable increasingly tight control of (and payment for) use of their acquired assets.

Scholarly output is being created primarily through universtiy funding and published with little to no remuneration from publishers.  This same information is being "remarketed" to the educational community for a price--sometimes a significant price.

Yet, old habits die hard and in many situations tenure and promotion decisions have yet to fully recognize new publication environments.  While some universities have and are developing open access University presses, they remain the exception.

Information Literacy Standards

Information is being shared in speeds and ways we could never have envisioned only a few years ago.  The rapidity of litigation, legislation, and interpretation of copyright has left many of our heads spinning.  Yet, teaching, learning, researching, and sharing continue within that milieu.  ACRL gets it right when they state in their Literacy Standard Five:

“The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.” (more)

Of course, faculty should understand the same issues.  Nevertheless, as a community we have yet to fully embrace new models of using, reusing, and attributing other's works.

Impact on Library and Educational Technology

ALA states that "Legal principles and technological capabilities...can directly affect the future of libraries." (more)  Librarians and instructional technologists depend on First Sale Doctrine, 107, 108, 110(1) and 110(2) for almost every service and resource that they provide.

However, market forces, the designed ambiguity of copyright exemptions, aggressive asset management by for-profit providers, and less than forceful responses from the academic community have the potential to erode the future of libraries and educational technology.  This new age presents challenges to the fundamental principles by which libraries and technology units contribute to the academic process

What can I do?

Become, and stay, informed.  Monitor this and a few other places that provide copyright information specifically designed for academic work.  Other good sites are:

Engage in conversations in scholarly communication and tenure and promotion systems.  Thoughtfully develop your own philosphy on this issue and encourage discussion among your peers.

Take advantage of educational opportunities so that you can confidently assert your rights.  This doesn't mean that you must become an expert--just that you have an overall understanding of copyright and intellectual property.