Blackboard, Creative Commons and “Works for Hire”

Recent news is making the rounds that Blackboard, a higher ed learning management system, is going to begin allowing Instructors to make content within the system open using Creative Commons Licenses. For Open Access advocates, this could sound like another bell signaling another round won. My two cents:

Blackboard is all I’ve ever known. I started at FSU in 2003 and used it through three degrees, including using it as an Instructor for quite some time. I don’t hate it; it accomplishes the goals it needs to, organizing web spaces for students to interact with course materials. However, at this point in our technological advancement, it seems sort of unesscessary… anyone with a little technical knowledge should be able to create a WordPress or Buddypress site to manage their courses. In a time when Universities are trimming budgets, wouldn’t it make sense to start to utilize some of the tools available on the open web that students are used to?

On the other side, my Scholarly Communications ears perked up when I started pondering the copyright issue. As far as I know, here at FSU, the University claims copyright to all “University-sponsored educational materials.” Quoting our Faculty Handbook:

Ownership of University-sponsored educational materials shall be vested in the University, subject to the conditions set forth in this statement of policy. Copyright of University-sponsored educational materials resides with the State of Florida. The author or producer shall cooperate with the University in obtaining copyright.

So I’m wondering, if these University-sponsored materials, including syllabuses, study guides, tests, recordings, are all owened by the University, how can Blackboard offer Instructors the option of attaching Creative Commons licenses to work they do not own?



One thought on “Blackboard, Creative Commons and “Works for Hire”

  1. It’s not nearly as simple as “every faculty member designs their own course in WordPress.” Many, many faculty are not technically inclined and would not welcome this. Further, standardization goes out the window. No easy way to port grades into a registration system, etc. I totally agree with you–I’d rather use Google Docs and other free services rather than half-baked LMS solutions, but these platforms do exist for a reason.
    The copyright issue is more complex. I’d imagine most schools control the output of their staff and faculty. The Mosiac debacle at UIUC comes to mind. I suppose, prima facie, there’s no contradiction between “copyright rests with the state” and creative commons; many government publications are public domain. But how do you handle Share-Alike licenses? What if a college wants to monetize something? Problems.

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