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Yes, You Can Use Copyrighted Material in Your Open Courseware

New Code of Best Practices Addresses Newest Twist on Copyright Confusion in Higher Education

Contact: Maggie Barrett, AU Communications, barrett at american.edu or 202-885-5951

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 15, 2009)—OpenCourseWare, the Web-based publication of academic course content launched in 2002 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been lauded for making college-level courses available to anyone anywhere in the world for free. The movement has expanded to include offerings from some of the nation's most selective universities including the University of Notre Dame and Yale University.

Open Courseware has presented a new twist on the issue of using copyrighted materials in the classroom as syllabi, lecture notes, power-point presentations, exams, audio and video used to teach a course are not limited to students in a physical classroom, but virtually broadcast via the Internet around the world. Does a professor of an open courseware biology course need to worry about copyright infringement if she wants to use an illustration of a heart that originally appeared in a text book as part of her course materials? What about a music professor who during video-taped class lectures plays audio clips of different recordings of Beethoven's symphonies?

Now, educational organizations have a guide that simplifies the legalities of using copyrighted materials in open courseware—The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare. The code was developed by experts in media and fair use at American University and a committee of practitioners of open courseware from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, MIT, Tufts University, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, and Yale University.

To read the full code, go to http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/ocw.

The code aims to help OCW designers at U.S. educational organizations recognize situations to which fair use applies and situations that require they get permission from third-party rights holders.

“This is an important moment for OCW,” said Lindsey Weeramuni, intellectual property supervisor for MIT OpenCourseWare, who led the code's production. “It gives us an additional tool we can use to publish high quality course materials while still respecting the rights of content owners.”

“The advantage of this code of best practices is that the professors and OCW staff can have confidence that they're making the right decisions on their own,” said Patricia Aufderheide, director of American University's Center for Social Media.

Renowned for coordinating codes of best practices in fair use—most recently for user-generated content
and media literacy education—Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi of AU's Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property assisted the Committee of Practitioners with drafting the code.

The number of higher education institutions and associated organizations around the world that offer OCW has grown to more than 200 since MIT launched it seven years ago.

“It's exciting to see the best-practices model extend into the open courseware community,” said Peter Jaszi. “Having seen profound market effects in our other work with creator and user communities, we expect to see this greatly improve the opportunities for open courseware makers.”

Located in Washington, D.C., American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and more than 150 countries. The university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation's capital and around the world.