Education Opinion

Learn Copyright in a Free Harvard Law School Course

By Justin Reich — December 22, 2012 2 min read
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I’m hopeful that many of my colleagues in education and education research will apply for the Copyright course being taught this winter on the edX platform by faculty from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Copyright is one of the most confounding issues facing educators. The laws on the books simply didn’t foresee the networked world that we live in today. Moreover, content creators (mostly in the entertainment industry) have successfully shifted the public discourse of copyright towards the imperative to protect market share and away from the original constitutional purpose: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

In a world where educators and students are increasingly borrowing, remixing, and sharing resources, educators and education researchers need to have a deep understanding of copyright law permeated throughout our community. Folks like Renee Hobbs have worked on this issue for many years (her book Copyright Clarity is the best introduction to these issues for educators), and we need more pathways for more educators to deepen their understanding.

So it’s very exiting that first edX course to come out of Harvard Law School will be on copyright, taught by Terry Fisher, Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and a small army of HLS teaching fellows. (I’ll be helping a little bit with researching the implementation and outcomes of the course.) This free course represents a terrific opportunity for educators to dig deeper into these issues.

HLS1x Copyright (affectionately known as CopyrightX) will not be a MOOC. edX is an institution charged with using networked learning experiences to improve learning opportunities on campus and online, and not everything it does has to be full open enrollment. As the announcement of CopyrightX explains:

Enrollment for the course is limited because we believe that high-quality legal education depends, at least in part, upon supervised small-group discussions of difficult issues. Fidelity to that principle requires confining the course to the number of participants that can be supervised effectively by our 21 teaching fellows.

So while not everyone can play this year, the several hundred folks who do get into the course will have an opportunity to have a learning experience very similar to the one offered to students at HLS: lectures and carefully curated readings from a leading expert and discussions facilitated by senior HLS students. You’ll even have to sit for a three hour exam, just like everyone else at HLS, to get your certificate.

The course materials will be available through an open license (similar to Open CourseWare), and there are emerging plans and dreams for how such an experience could eventually be scaled up. For now, this represents a pretty amazing chance to have an intimate experience with the faculty and students of the Harvard Law School, along with people from around the world interested in copyright. It will be open to the public broadly, and I hope educators are well-represented!

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.

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