Freedom for IP » open education Dreaming of Intellectual Prosperity Mon, 07 May 2012 22:39:40 +0000 en hourly 1 Berkeley’s New Notes Policy, Part 3: Permissions, Restrictions, and Underlying Principles /2012/03/07/berkeleys-new-notes-policy-part-3-permissions-restrictions-and-underlying-principles/ /2012/03/07/berkeleys-new-notes-policy-part-3-permissions-restrictions-and-underlying-principles/#comments Wed, 07 Mar 2012 22:33:13 +0000 Andrew Lee /?p=1578 Continuing our discussion of UC Berkeley’s new class notes policy, I’d like to argue that (1) permissions-based policies, such as those embodied in Creative Commons licenses, create less uncertainty and better serve the purposes of professors and students, and (2) to the extent that education is perceived as lying beyond the free market, the invocation of copyright law is counterproductive at best, and hypocritical at worst.

Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that teaching is a unique profession, one worthy of special consideration. For convenience’s sake, I’ll call this the sui generis position. This appears to be the position of some professors’ writings in support of policies that (as discussed previously) claim copyright protection in class lecture notes to a legally questionable extent. Such support essentially argues that content created by professors and presented in classrooms should be more thoroughly protected against unauthorized use and reproduction.

Within the sui generis position, there is another position, described by Professor Ignacio Chapela in a writing reproduced at Richard Brenneman’s original post about Berkeley’s new policy:

Copyright is clearly only a subservient appendix to the commodification and privatization trends in professional training, but one that is self-defeating and absurd even in its own terms.

This quote follows a refutation of the notion that recordings or notes of the educational process are equivalent to the educational process; Professor Chapela will resist “… the commodification of my life as a teacher and researcher….” So a belief in a fundamental distinction between education and other vocations that create content can lead to two fairly divergent positions with respect to copyright protection. I think that Professor Chapela’s position is more consistent with the basic precept; the enhanced protection advocates seem to assume that market activities present a threat to their activities – in other words, the singular status of education is not something inherent (and therefore safe), but rather an imposition, an artificial separation between education and other social activities that must be maintained through policy.

One of the primary failings of a policy like Berkeley’s is that it ignores the fact that several disparate interests exist within the spectrum of work that a professor may use in teaching his or her students. As it stands, the policy assumes an adversarial relationship between student and professor – that students learn only by the leave of the professor, and that they are at all points in the educational process suspected of divulging pedagogical secrets to for-profit notes distributors.

Policies based on restrictions can, in fact, do a good and thorough job of addressing adverse effects. They are also basically useless at promoting positive effects. Permissions-based policies, in the educational realm, offer far more certainty for students as to what is allowed; they are explicitly told what they may do, as opposed to vague warnings about professors may forbid them from doing. Insofar as a primary goal of Berkeley’s policy is to prevent commercial dissemination, a professor might attach any of three Creative Commons licenses that explicitly prevent commercial use to any prepared materials distributed to students. Such a restriction still allows for the possibility of a defense grounded in fair use, even for commercial uses, but that uncertainty is certainly not lessened in a policy as restrictive as Berkeley’s. The cases that proponents of Berkeley-type policies refer to, as well as the cases I discussed in the previous installment, are by no means strong supports for such policies.

Right around the time period (the early 2000s) when legislators and academics in California were batting about the issue of increased protections for lectures, researchers at the University of Michigan were thinking about the problem of low-quality notetaking by students. Collaborative review, reorganization, and rephrasing of concepts are some of the tools suggested by the UMich paper – such activites, in a balancing act between professors’ and students’ rights (or, phrased differently – between professors’ rights and professors’ responsibilities), should be encouraged by school policies. This cannot be properly accomplished by merely emphasizing professorial copyright; that, as Berkeley’s attempt shows, ends up distorting the teacher-student interaction into the very model of the market-style contractual exchange the sui generis position denounces. Permissive policies would be as effective in getting students to take note of the fact that rights may inhere in educational presentations (more so, if you want them to understand what those rights actually are), and would also emphasize, as a matter of policy, the fundamentals of good note-taking.

As an ideological issue, it is troubling that educators would support a policy blatantly ignoring fair use, when fair use has been invoked (successfully or not) in quite a few instances where educators are the accused infringers. As a policy matter, it would provide normative and legal consistency if universities would ensure that the stances adopted at both ends of the spectrum – as accused infringers and as aggrieved rightsholders – were at least compatible, if not identical.

In the next and final post on the subject, I’ll delve into the specific characteristics of a permissions-based policy, examining what language and terms such a policy might incorporate, and how its provisions provide the same substantive protections, while providing a better balance of rights than, restrictions-based policies.

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How Legal is Berkeley’s New Class Notes Policy? Part 2 /2012/01/30/how-legal-is-berkeleys-new-class-notes-policy-part-2/ /2012/01/30/how-legal-is-berkeleys-new-class-notes-policy-part-2/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2012 22:20:03 +0000 Andrew Lee /?p=1541 UC Berkeley’s new class notes policy is the equivalent of fighting a kitchen fire with a sledgehammer. Not only is it a disproportionate response, it is an ineffective one as well – one that poses a subtler but greater threat than the fire itself. Berkeley’s policy is not well-supported by federal or state law, and represents a surprising step backwards for the University of California’s flagship campus.

Copyright Permit Required At All Times
(Image by Mike Linksvayer)


The policy states that “[i]ndividual instructors retain copyrights to lectures and class presentations, class materials they create, and related material pursuant to U.S. copyright law, California Civil Code § 980 (a)(1), and the University of California’s Policy on Copyright Ownership.” This language invokes three separate wellsprings of authority – federal, state, and institutional. A brief look at each in turn:

Section 102 of the federal Copyright Act informs us that copyright protect subsists, in general, “in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression . . . .” The key term for our purposes is “fixed,” which pushes many, if not most, typical classroom lectures out from under the copyright umbrella. Extemporaneous presentations, unless recorded in some manner, do not get copyright protection.

California Civil Code §980 does grant ownership rights on unfixed presentations: “[t]he author of any original work of authorship that is not fixed in any tangible medium of expression has an exclusive ownership in the representation or expression thereof . . . .”  Although the federal Copyright Act, in section 301, explicitly preempts state laws that provide similar rights, §980 avoids such preemption by dealing with works explicitly unprotected by federal copyright. It does look like a good foundation for the Berkeley policy, but the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has found that §980 reflects a legislative intent “to deny copyright protection to ideas, as opposed to the manner in which they are expressed or represented.” (See page 1423 of the opinion) This preserves the core idea-expression dichotomy that prevents copyright law from protecting ideas and facts, rather than a specific expression of them. In essence, we can say that §980 effectively extends federal copyright-type protection, within the state of California, to unfixed works of authorship, but with limitations on subject matter analogous to those created by §102 of the Copyright Act.

Finally, the University of California’s copyright policy is more a policy statement than a grant of unique institutional rights. It states, in part: “The University encourages the creation of original works of authorship and the free expression and exchange of ideas.” Reasonable minds may disagree on whether copyright protection promotes or stifles the creation of original works, but Berkeley’s policy is an incontrovertible shackle upon students’ ability to engage in any exchange of ideas based upon those works.

How might a judge apply these laws? Faulkner Press v. Class Notes, a federal case in the Northern District of Florida, in which the defendant (a notes reseller) sold note packages including a significant amount of material copyrighted by Professor Michael Moulton. This material was prepared and recorded beforehand, and properly the subject of federal copyright protection. Judge Mickle informs us that fair use is a potential stumbling block for the sort of broad prohibitions embodied by Berkeley’s policy:

Even though the film study questions and practice questions are protected by copyright, genuine issues of fact remain as to whether inclusion of the questions, as well as the lecture summaries, within Class Notes’ note packages constitutes fair use…. Dr. Moulton’s works as a whole are derivative, factual, and published. Furthermore, his film study questions and practice questions are factual compilations. Copyright protection extends only to the selection and arrangement, not to the underlying facts themselves, and “[t]his inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin.” Feist. 499 U.S. at 349. So in determining fair use, this factor will weigh against Faulkner Press.

With respect to California state law, some proponents of expanded professorial control over academic presentations find support in the ruling of the California Supreme Court in Williams v. Weisser, a 1969 case in which the court ruled in favor of a plaintiff professor against a note reseller defendant. Two points tend to weaken that support: first, the case predates the Copyright Act of 1976, which expressly preempts state laws that grant analogous rights and remedies. Second, the Court in Williams did not rely upon the protection of unfixed works granted by §980:

This is, therefore, not a case where the concrete expression of the “composition” (Civ. Code, § 980, subd. (a)) consists solely of an intangible oral presentation. (Nimmer on Copyright § 11.1.) As far as this litigation is concerned, the chief importance of the oral presentation is that it provided defendant with access to plaintiff’s work and with an argument that there had been a divestive publication.

Taken together, these two points mean that the common-law copyright jurisprudence applied in this case, in favor of the plaintiff, would today be preempted by federal statute.

A good look at the statutes and their application by judges should be enough to demonstrate that, if they try to exercise the “rights” granted by the Berkeley policy in a court of law, professors shouldn’t rely on an easy victory.

In the next installment: a discussion of the public policy issues that underlie the Berkeley notes policy, and how a licensing-and-permissions-based policy is more in line with the interests of educators and students than a rights-and-restrictions-based one. Also – to what extent do students and professors actually care what school policies say, and how should that inform the content of such policies?


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UC Berkeley’s New Policy on Student Note-Taking, Part 1 /2012/01/12/uc-berkeleys-new-policy-on-student-note-taking-part-i/ /2012/01/12/uc-berkeleys-new-policy-on-student-note-taking-part-i/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 20:59:10 +0000 Andrew Lee /?p=1534

Late last year, UC Berkeley implemented a new policy regarding the taking and using of course notes and other class materials. It “sets forth the limitations on use of course notes and course materials and the making and use of recordings of instructors’ class presentations,” and proceeds to describe a rather draconian regime in which students’ use of their notes and class materials – indeed, their right to take notes at all – may be severely curtailed by their professors. Berkeley’s Office of Educational Development has also posted a set of cease and desist letters that professors may use, against students or third parties.

This is the first in a series of posts addressing Berkeley’s new class notes policy – in this introductory post, I will outline the issues involved and point to places where Berkeley’s policy conflicts with federal copyright law. Future posts will include a more detailed analysis of what rights copyright law provides compared to the rights Berkeley’s policy purports to take, as well as the benefits of a permission-based access and dissemination policy over a restriction-based one (essentially, telling people what they can do rather than what they can’t); I will also discuss the validity of the concerns the new policy seeks to address – specifically the professorial interest in repressing his work versus the social interest in open access; and finally, examine what terms a genuinely useful note-taking policy might include, one based on access rather than restriction.

This new policy is an unfortunately ironic development at UC Berkeley, the site of the 2008 Students for Free Culture conference. It was at this conference that the Wheeler Declaration was drafted, which included “open educational materials” as one of the five criteria of a truly “open” university. Needless to say, Berkeley’s new restrictions on the dissemination of such materials represent a step away from the open university movement. Given that all aspects of the University of California’s mission statement – to teach, research, and serve the public – are arguably better served by more distribution of knowledge, rather than less, there seems to be an internal dissonance here as well.

Berkeley and other UC faculty have, naturally, commented on the new policy. Richard Brenneman has an excellent post detailing some of their reactions. He includes e-mails objecting to the policy from Professors Amy Kapczynski and Ignacio Chapela, both at UC Berkeley, as well as comments supportive of the new policy from Professor Robert Meister, President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations. All following quotations from these professors are derived from Mr. Brenneman’s post.

In support of the policy, Professor Meister writes that “This seems to be a belated (and welcome) implementation of AB 1773, which was CUCFA’s response to UC’s (and especially UCLA’s) attempt to exploit a gap in copyright law to claim the right to record and re-use class presentations, such as lectures, and to get adjuncts to expressly agree to this as a condition of employment.” AB 1773 is a California state law, passed in 2000, that amended the California Education Code, adding sections 66450 – 66452. Section 66450 reads as follows:

66450.  (a) Except as authorized by policies developed in accordance with subdivision (a) of Section 66452, no business, agency, or person, including, but not necessarily limited to, an enrolled student, shall prepare, cause to be prepared, give, sell, transfer, or otherwise distribute or publish, for any commercial purpose, any contemporaneous recording of an academic presentation in a classroom or equivalent site of instruction by an instructor of record. This prohibition applies to a recording made in any medium, including, but not necessarily limited to, handwritten or typewritten class notes.

(b) Nothing in this section shall be construed to interfere with the rights of disabled students under law.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Academic presentation” means any lecture, speech, performance, exhibit, or other form of academic or aesthetic presentation, made by an instructor of record as part of an authorized course of instruction that is not fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

(2) “Commercial purpose” means any purpose that has financial or economic gain as an objective.

(3) “Instructor of record” means any teacher or staff member employed to teach courses and authorize credit for the successful completion of courses.

Professor Meister’s comments highlight some of the ideological motivations behind the Berkeley policy, which, in his view, has roots in a long-standing conflict of interest between instructors and administrators over who has control over materials created by professors in the employ of the University of California. Professor Meister ends his e-mail with a normative claim, that professorial – rather than institutional – ability to “set the terms on everything beyond note-taking” is a distinction between academics and other varieties of institutional employees that “lies at the heart of academic freedom.” But the language of the California Education Code requires that any claim to such a distinction must rest upon sound legal ground – Section 66452(a) stipulates that “[n]othing in this chapter is intended to change existing law as it pertains to the ownership of academic presentations.” §66450(c)(1) identifies academic presentations as being unfixed – precisely the sort of thing that, as Professor Kapczynski notes, federal copyright law does not protect.

Distilled, the problem Berkeley’s new policy seeks to address seems to run thus: Third parties, gaining access to class notes and materials, have been selling those materials to students and others for a profit. This has already been the subject of litigation, as in Faulkner Press, L.L.C. v. Class Notes, L.L.C., Case. No. 1:08cv49-SPM/GRJ (N.D. Fla., 2010). Disregarding, for the time being, the obvious pecuniary motivations faculty and administrators may have in curtailing such activity, there are normative considerations that are worth discussing – a professor’s right (or lack thereof) to privacy in the comments he makes to a closed classroom, for example, which will be discussed in a later post. Broadly stated, this policy, in attempting to protect the interests of some faculty members against note-selling groups, is most detrimental to students and anyone else interested in open education and technology as a route thereto.

Professor Kapczynski writes that “it’s not obvious that copyright policy offers the best (or an adequate) response to the challenges of peer-to-peer networks for our modes of teaching.” Berkeley’s policy, which responds to these challenges by asserting rights beyond those that federal copyright law actually bestows, and ignoring the availability of fair use defenses where valid rights exist, is almost certainly not the best means by which to balance the interests of institutions, faculty, students, and the public. In the next post on this topic I’ll be examining, in more detail, the interests of all parties affected, relevant copyright law and precedent, and how Berkeley’s policy interacts with both federal law and other UC policies.

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Open Education Class by Mozilla & ccLearn /2009/03/17/open-education-class-by-mozilla-cclearn/ /2009/03/17/open-education-class-by-mozilla-cclearn/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2009 16:01:33 +0000 Brian Rowe /?p=1116 mozilla-foundation

Mozilla, ccLearn and P2PU just announced an Open Education six week online course where educators learn about open content licensing, open web technologies and open teaching methods. The course starts on 2 April, 2009!

Target Audience

  • Educators looking for skills to help them with open teaching and learning.
  • Should have some tech or content production skills already.
  • Likely to come from areas like: new media, communications, design, comp studies.
  • Have a project idea that they’d like to work on as part of the course.


  • Help educators learn about open licensing, technology and teaching.
  • Test and assess the online course method being developed by Mozilla Labs.
  • Create awareness of Mozilla Education, ccLearn, and P2PU amongst educators.
  • Gather design ideas for and other open learning projects.

Sign up today there are only 20 spots!

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