By Daniela & Lourdes



Challenges to Copyright and IPR and Possible Policies

Almost all educators agree that eLearning is becoming an important keyword in education and that eLearning can be an effective method that should be blended into a corporation's current learning mix (Copyright, Intellectual Property and eLearning in Canada). More and more individuals are sharing their digital learning resources online openly and also for free, as Open Educational Resources (OER), which according to an often cited definition are "teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others" (Atkins, Brown, & Hammond, 2007, p. 4). The owner of copyright in a work can take legal action where, without consent, the work is copied, performed or shown in public or is communicated to the public (including making it available in a VLE) or an adaptation of the work is made (Masons, 2005, p.2). Although the idea of having openly and free resources is thriving at the moment, OER brings along also challenges that might stifle the further growth of this idea.

Challenge 1:
An issue which may be encountered is regarding the inclusion of all-rights-reserved content in the teaching material. As technology has made it easier for teachers to make free educational material for the benefits of students, teachers may have lack of awareness regarding the legal implications of using these materials and copies for teaching. When these educational materials are placed online, they can be shared and reused by anyone, making them his/her own. Thus, the cost to users of determining if the published material may be used or not, may present a barrier to the use of e-Learning systems.
Possible Policy 1:
In order to overcome this issue, information, training and support may be offered to teachers and academic staff so that they are aware of the legal issues they may encounter. In turn, academic staff may then help and inform the students about these issues. Both teachers and students should be aware of the Creative Commons Licences which can be of great value in the educational sector.
Challenge 2:
A second argument against OER is with regards the quality of material. This issue is an important factor in OER, Wikipedia being an obvious example. As more and more resources are being available online, and since OER allow any user to post material, some resources may not be relevant or accurate as each learner are actively encouraged to re-use, re-purpose and remix the resources and thus can complete just the sections of the learning s/he need in anyway (http://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/37351085.pdf).
Possible Policy 2:
Students should be encouraged to use trusted OER sites and also to read user reviews regarding these sites. The teacher can also make use of resources such as Diigo to bookmark and highlight trusted websites and encourage and refer the students to use these websites and OER, marked by the teacher.


Challenge 3:
Another challenge that e-learning and copyright poses to the teacher is that the teacher has to moderate what is being put up on the e-learning site as in he is responsible to check that no plagiarism took place and all the citations and ideas are properly referenced. This is time-consuming and prone to errors if the teacher does not have the right software to check for plagiarism. Naturally, being so time consuming, this might lead to teachers not moderating what is being uploaded properly. In case the e-learning site is reported for illegal distribution of information that is protected by copyright laws, the teacher is held responsible.
Possible Policy 3:
To diminish the chances of having students uploading material that is copyrighted, the teacher should guide the students beforehand as to how to formulate ideas from other resources and make references accordingly. The students should also be encouraged to use resources under a Creative Commons licence and they upload their work, they should also get a Creative Commons licence. In this way, they will become aware that knowledge and ideas are expensive and we should be careful of how and when to make use of other people’s creations (http://creativecommons.org/choose/).


Challenge 4:
Having a student uploading an e-Book on an e-learning site is illegal. This might lead to other students downloading it without permission from the author. Furthermore, the e-learning site could be reported and closed down.





References:
Atkins, Daniel E., John Seely Brown and Allen L. Hammond, (2007) A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities, Hewlet Foundation.
Hylen, J. Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges. OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.
Masons, P. (2005). Copyright Law for e-learning authors. JISC Legal Information.