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MOOCs: Legal and Policy Issues for Research Libraries

In late October, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released an issue brief about the legal ramifications of MOOCs on research libraries written by Brandon Butler.  The Executive Summary states:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) raise significant legal and policy questions for research libraries, which are often asked to support the development of MOOC courses. These questions involve information policy concerns that are central to research libraries, including the proper application of fair use, the transition to open access as the default mode of scholarly publishing, and the provision of equal access to learning materials for students with and without disabilities. Where possible, research libraries should engage in conversations around MOOCs and promote their core values. By doing so, they will also promote the continuing vitality of libraries as partners in the educational mission.

The article goes on to lay out the major legal issues raised around MOOCs. 

Some of the key legal issues that MOOCs raise for research libraries revolve around copyright and the use of copyrighted content in this new context, while others relate to open access and accessibility. Specifically, MOOCs raise legal questions in four main areas:

  • use of copyrighted works in instructional materials such as online lectures or modules (the equivalent of traditional classroom teaching);
  • assignment of copyrighted works for outside reading (the equivalent of assigned texts and course reserves);
  • copyright status of materials generated by faculty for use in MOOC courses (including video lectures, course modules, and other supporting materials);
  • applicability of the notice-and-takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; and
  •  accessibility of MOOC courses for learners with disabilities. (p. 3)

Libraries are consistently being tasked to adapt to the changing environment created by our new digital landscape, just as other parts of the academy are being asked to respond to technological advancement, and I believe we are fully up to the task. So, I'd like put out a few questions of my own to the HASTAC community about libraries and MOOCs...

  1. How can libraries and librarians respond to these challenges?
  2. How will this change our "job descriptions" within the world of academic librarianship? 
  3. Is this a call for more organizing around library's and library users' rights around the issues of copyright, fair use and publishing? 

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