When my colleagues Anne Gilliland and Lisa Macklin and I released our first Coursera MOOC about copyright, called Copyright for Educators and Librarians, we were very pleased with the reaction. Although our enrollment for that first MOOC was, at just over 10,000 participants, rather low by MOOC standards, we had a higher than normal percentage of completions, and the feedback we got from colleagues was quite positive.
That course ran in the summer of 2014. In July of 2015, we were able to release a new version of the same course in an on-demand format, meaning that participants are able to start the course whenever they wish and can proceed at their own pace without a proscribed ending point.
The move to on-demand is important because it brought us a bit closer to our overall goal, which has been to provide a form of copyright education that is accessible in the several sense of that word to all of our colleagues in education, especially. The course is still free, although there is a small fee if the participants want to receive a “verified certificate” of completion. We began this project aware that the Center for Intellectual Property at UMUC had recently closed, so the education community had lost access to their series of course offering on copyright that carried continuing education credit. Our hope was to provide an opportunity to learn about copyright that was free to all, but also could be used, through the verified certificates, by those colleagues who want to learn about the subject AND get some form of (less expensive) credit for this professional development activity.
Now we have taken another big step toward that goal, with the release today of our second MOOC, on Copyright for Multimedia. Like the first course, this MOOC is on-demand, free to take, and relatively short – four substantive modules and an introduction. In this second course, the modules focus on four different media – data, images, music and film. It grew out of our awareness how often the questions brought to us focus on different media. Many of our colleagues seem confused about how copyright “rules” from the print world, apply in an environment rich with diverse forms of expression and communication. This confusion is understandable, since copyright was born with print technology and continues to adapt only uncomfortably to these “new” media.
When we are asked about what “copyright for music,” or “copyright for film,” looks like, we try to emphasis that the one copyright law in the U.S. is intended to apply without regard to medium of expression. Nevertheless, it is perfectly true that some provisions of the law are media-specific. More significantly, the circumstances in which different media are used are often quite different from the more familiar facts surrounding the use and distribution of print. There is an lawyer’s maxim that says, “change the facts and you change the outcome,” and that is never more true that when we are talking about different media.
Our new MOOC tries to address these differences, and also to further develop the framework for analyzing a copyright issue that we built in the first course. Now that both MOOCs are available on the Coursera platform, we hope that they will be a continuing resource to improve copyright understanding for our colleagues.
I want to add a couple of personal notes to this announcement of the two-part series of MOOCs on copyright.
First, I want to say what a wonderful experience it has been to work with Lisa and Anne, who are as smart and creative about teaching as they are about copyright, as well as with the online course team at Duke. I want especially to note my sense of awe at the creative, complex and realistic scenarios that Anne Gilliland can think up to tease out the implications of copyright in different situations; I hope our participants find them as thought-provoking and amusing as I do.
Second, because of the announcement issued today about my new position as Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas, and thus my departure from Duke, it seems unlikely that I will participate in any more MOOCs in this series. Our original plan was for three courses, but the two we now have stand alone and, we hope, also work together as a series. It is now an open question whether there will be a third MOOC in this series, but the process of creating these two has been delightful, and the product, I profoundly hope, useful to our colleagues and to many others.