In March, the Intellectual Property Caucus met in Louisville, KY at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication. Open to all registrants at the CCCC, the yearly meeting of the caucus provides an opportunity for participants to learn about intellectual property (IP)-related developments during the previous twelve months as well as to join in roundtable discussions about continuing or pending IP issues likely to affect instructors and students.
Summary of Roundtable Discussions
Among the roundtables this year was one at which participants discussed the uploading to instructor-rating sites of materials generated by college instructors (e.g., study guides and exams) and the impact of such uploading on the instructors’ intellectual property rights. This table also discussed the issues that may arise when K-12 teachers sell lesson plans. Do such materials fall into the category of work for hire, which may imply that these lesson plans are not theirs to sell? The question suggests the importance of intellectual property agreements even on the K-12 level.
Another roundtable discussed corporate pressure on YouTube that may lead to unwarranted restrictions on the fair use of copyrighted materials by educators and students. For example, the automated application of Content ID technology can prevent students from posting montages and can result in the unexpected disappearance of materials that instructors were planning to make use of in their classes. As it happened, only days before the caucus the organizers of this roundtable were presented with a perfect example of the misuse of Content ID when a lecture by Lawrence Lessig, noted authority on intellectual property issues, was pulled by YouTube.
Among the issues addressed by other roundtables: the relationship between fair use and our students’ growing exploitation of visual rhetoric; the impact of open access archives on higher education; and the need for educators to advocate for and implement open source software solutions. Participants debated the circumstances under which educators should encourage students to participate in the Creative Commons enterprise. They wondered what students could be encouraged to publish without either students or instructors running afoul of copyright restrictions. They discussed the need for educators to provide unrestricted access to data through the creation of open access archives where both scholarship and student work could be deposited. Participants at roundtables also brainstormed a number of specific IP resources that could be created for educators and students, such as an open source ‘starter kit’ with links to open source software as well as to instructions and tutorials for such software.
An Action Item from this Year’s Caucus
One specific step that participants were able to take at the caucus itself was the drafting of a letter in answer to a request in the Federal Register for public comments on the issue of strengthening U.S. enforcement of IP rights. This call for public comments was in response to a requirement in the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 that the federal government develop a strategy for protecting IP rights. Caucus participants were concerned that the call for comments in the Federal Register focused exclusively on the interests of copyright holders even though the wording of the U.S. Constitution implies that sometimes such interests must yield in favor of the promotion of learning. Participants therefore expressed their hope that the office charged with developing an IP strategy would be mindful of the ways in which the enforcement of copyright may adversely affect the educational community. In support of its request that this concern be taken into account, the letter pointed to situations in which “over-zealous and improper enforcement” have interfered with — or even prevented legitimate use of copyrighted material for educational purposes. Before this appeal was sent on to the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, it was submitted to the Committee on Intellectual Property of the CCCC, which joined the Intellectual Property Caucus in endorsing it. The larger CCCC organization supported the letter as well as did almost 100 other individuals and organizations who attached their signatures to the letter.
Members of the caucus will continue to follow the process by which the federal government develops its intellectual property enforcement strategy in hopes of keeping the needs of students and educators in the forefront.
Next Year’s CCCC-IP Caucus – Atlanta, Georgia 2011
Caucus members are also in the process of preparing proposals for roundtables for the 2011 caucus, which will take place at next year’s CCCC in Atlanta, GA. Coordinator of the proposals is the new senior chair of the caucus, Traci Zimmerman, an associate professor in the School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication at James Madison University, where she teaches courses in authorship, literacy, and rhetorical theory. In addition to chairing the caucus, Traci serves on the Editorial Board for the NCTE IP Committee/Caucus Inbox Project. Anyone with questions about the caucus and its plans for its annual meeting in 2011 can contact Traci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim D. Gainer
Department of English