UC Berkeley Faculty Association

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BFA 4/30/15 Letter to VC Koshland re: Status of Online Education working group

Dear Vice Chancellor Koshland,

We are writing to inquire on the progress of the working group you convened last summer around the issues of copyright and intellectual property raised by online education initiatives across campus.

As you are no doubt aware last year the Berkeley Faculty Association was perturbed to discover how many different types of contracts were being offered to faculty on campus who taught online classes. (See http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/05/19/the-erosion-of-faculty- rights/). We were even more perturbed to learn that some contracts ceded the copyright of course content solely to the university, while others established joint ownership in various ways between the campus and faculty.

Last Fall, we followed with interest the work of faculty in the Haas Business School’s Policy and Planning Committee in developing a statement on “Online Course Intellectual Property Principles.” This statement firmly situates the intellectual property of course content with faculty while acknowledging that the Haas School has copyright over the “Digital Assets” developed to teach the class online. This statement was produced so that the Dean of Haas could create a new model contract for online classes that would replace the very unsatisfactory default one currently used. However, we have now learned that the School has yet to integrate these principles into a new online contract. We are very concerned about the continuing use of the existing contract, which lack important protections for faculty.

With this in mind, we are writing to find out how your work is progressing and whether you are developing a model contract that would reflect the principles developed in the Haas “Statement of Principles.” It is extremely important that the campus draw up the language for a model contract that safeguards the right of faculty to retain ownership and control of their intellectual property rights in the materials they create for the online courses. It is also important that, as the role of Senate oversight in this area is attenuated at best, a process be established to require all units on campus to integrate these principles into their contracts with faculty contributing to online courses—both ladder faculty and non-ladder faculty.

We believe that faculty are likely to be more eager to invest time and effort into developing high quality online courses if their rights are protected.

With best wishes,
Colleen Lye and James Vernon

Co-Chairs of the Berkeley Faculty Association

  1. Panos Papadopoulos, Academic Senate Chair
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