AAUP Sees MOOCs as Spawning New Threats to Professors’ Intellectual Property

Colleges broadly threaten faculty members’ copyrights and academic freedom in claiming ownership of the massive open online courses their instructors have developed, Cary Nelson, a former president of the American Association of University Professors, argued here on Wednesday at the group’s annual conference.

In the meeting’s opening address, Mr. Nelson characterized the debate at colleges over who owns the rights to faculty members’ MOOCs as part of a broader battle over intellectual property that’s being waged on America’s campuses. At stake, he said, is not just the ability of faculty members to profit from their own writings or inventions, but the future of their profession.

“If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” Mr. Nelson warned. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity,” and faculty members will instead essentially find themselves working in “a service industry,” he said.

The AAUP plans this year to undertake a campaign to urge professors to get protections of their intellectual-property rights included in their contracts and faculty handbooks, Mr. Nelson said. As part of that effort, the group plans to create a Web site with resources dealing with intellectual property and to devise letters about its concerns tailored for specific academic disciplines.

It also plans to publish a book, with boilerplate language for contracts and faculty handbooks, titled Recommended Principles to Guide University-Industry Relationships, said Mr. Nelson, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. <Read more.>

Via Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.