Davis Faculty Association

DFA Criticizes Proposed Copyright Policy

by Ben McCoy

The Universitywide Task Force on Copyright, headed by UCSC Executive Vice Chancellor R. Tanner, issued its Draft Report and Recommendations for review in September, 1998.  A quick reading of the Tanner report seemed to promise that US law and custom would be respected, and that the copyright for any independent scholarly work would be owned by the creator of that work.  Indeed, item 6 of the report stated, “The University should reaffirm the policy that a faculty member owns his or her works of scholarship.”  But upon closer reading it became clear that in item 6, “works of scholarship” referred to research but not instructional material. The report noted that recordings of class lectures, for example, may belong to the University.  DFA Executive Board member Charlie Nash outlined the problem:

“Suppose that UC mounted a video camera in the back of 198 Young and videotaped all of my Chem 2A lectures (this in fact happened—my lectures were piped to an overflow room in Olson Hall and were taped en route.)  Suppose also that the following quarter UC decided to save some money by running the tapes of my lectures rather than employ me or another faculty member to revise and redeliver them. What are my rights?  Suppose even further that UC now decides to market the tapes in question commercially because of my expository brilliance, or to include them in the catalog of the California Virtual University and give or sell degree credit to those who enroll in the course via that medium.  It would be easy for UC to hire a grad student to cook up some exam questions for the virtual course and to hold some e-mail office hours.  Again, what are my rights?”

Aside from ownership and possible financial gain that faculty would lose in such circumstances, perhaps just as important is pedagogical and academic quality.  According to UC policy, faculty have authority for what is taught in the classroom.  Many faculty are rightly concerned that courses taught via electronic media not escape careful Academic Senate review.

A key issue is whether faculty work in the classroom is or is not “work for hire.”  An incident at UCLA shows the difficulties that can arise.  Faculty were required to post administrative information about their courses on the web and invited to add other material derived from the course syllabi.  One professor wanted to change some things he had posted on the website.  He discovered that the site was protected in  a manner that precluded him from making the changes without the permission of a gatekeeper.  In effect, his scholarly instructional work had come under the control of an administrative unit of the University.

DFA and the Council of UC Faculty Associations provided detailed criticisms of the Tanner report, including its inconsistency with United States Code—The Copyright Act of 1976.  The law provides that faculty own their classroom lectures, whether typed and placed on the web, written out on paper, or recorded electronically.  Several Academic Senate committees also saw and analyzed the problems. The Council Chair of the Systemwide Assembly of the Academic Senate wrote to the Office of the President saying that too many concerns and objections had been raised to consider the Tanner report close to being finished, and that a new statement was needed with another full faculty review.  We trust that the criticisms will be heeded.

[For another view on copyright  issues, see the AAUP website <www.aaup.org> under Distance Education & Intellectual Property Issues.]

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 29th, 1999 at 2:03 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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