Think long, act short! *

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) can be really tricky when you are trying to publish good stuff that has been generated by other people, for use by the rest of the world – even when you have the permission of the authors.

To illustrate the point, here’s a scenario we discussed today in the context of our OTTER project, which is all about making teaching materials available as Open Educational Resources (OERs).

A lecturer from another university has been invited to come and give a presentation to students and staff of a department at our university. Someone in the hosting department suggests that the presentation be videoed – ‘for the distance students who can’t be here today’ – and so plans are put in place to do this.

Naturally, the speaker is asked for her permission before the camera starts rolling, and the presentation is duly captured in video and audio formats. In addition, the speaker is asked if she wouldn’t mind handing over her slides, to complete the package for the distance students. (In this scenario, which took place last week, the speaker graciously agreed to both requests, verbally.)

Questions then arise around the formatting/packaging of the presentation. For example, should we provide both the video (streamed from the university’s server) and the audio alone (in MP3/ podcast format)? Should we also produce a slideshow in which we synchronise the audio with the slides (e.g. in Adobe Connect), on the assumption that this is more useful for users than the video of the speaker with slides only fuzzily visible in the background?

The formatting questions are necessary, but not sufficient, in deciding how to proceed. The speaker has so far only given her verbal permission: written permission will be needed, indicating that she understands the uses to which the materials will be put and has permitted these uses. The speaker’s permission needs to take account of her copyright (in the slides), her performance rights (in the use of her voice and videoed image), and her moral right to be acknowledged as the author.

Apart from the speaker herself, there may be other parties who would consider that they have a claim to the materials or part of the materials. The speaker’s employer may have a policy regarding ownership of teaching materials produced by staff, and they may need to be consulted. In addition, if the speaker used any content (e.g. diagrams, frameworks) from other authors, permission would be needed from these people too.

The IPR considerations become all the more pertinent if we go beyond the ‘walled enclosure’ of the institution’s Learning Management System, and wish to publish the materials as an Open Educational Resource, for example in an OER repository such as JORUM or OER Commons. The key is to think about the possible long-term uses, and rights implications, of a resource at the planning stages. This is a mindset that anyone either generating or publishing OERs needs to adopt, and is critical for the credibility and survival of the open courseware movement.

* An IPR Moment

Thanks to Roger Dence for the use of his words as the title for this blog entry, and for sharing thoughts about IPRs in our discussion today.

Gabi Witthaus

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