The Australian | 7 November 2012
Universities keen to sign up to a massive open online course, or MOOC, may face serious copyright restrictions that the sector is only now starting to grapple with. Under copyright law, the millions of dollars worth of third-party content that universities have paid licences for may only be able to be supplied to formally enrolled students. That would likely exclude students signing up for a free course on a MOOC. According to Derek Whitehead, director of information resources at Swinburne University and chair of the copyright advisory committee at the Council of Australian University Librarians
This is a big deal if you want to do more than provide some of the university’s content on the open web for nothing. If you want to go beyond your university’s own content then that is a much more complex issue.
Universities spend about $200 million a year on commercially licensed content and pay almost $30m annually to the Copyright Agency Limited for the statutory licence in the Copyright Act. But this content is behind what Whitehead calls the “walled garden”; it can only be used within the university for enrolled students. If a university wanted to put third-party content into a MOOC, it might have to seek and pay for a separate licence.
Deakin University vice-chancellor Jane den Hollander says Deakin University has been careful to abide by copyright in the planning for the launch of its MOOC next year.
It is one of the big undiscussed challenges of how you do all this.
In Australia, universities are going to have to limit the content of the MOOC to that which it actually owns, and they can’t readily make other people’s content available.