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IP and Your Professional Organizations

Words and images can be worth a lot of money, and that fact sometimes causes a collision between educators and copyright holders. One notable example of such a collision, the case of Cambridge University Press et al v. Patton et al, was reported upon in the previous IP Report. The outcome of that case offers some encouragement to educators who use e-reserves to distribute materials to their students. But that is only one example among many. Educators have a stake in numerous other IP-related developments, such as Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) rule making, the proliferation of plagiarism detection services, and the growth of open access journals and repositories and attempts to restrict such growth.

At their conferences, the NCTE and the CCCC provide opportunities for panels and presentations on IP issues as they affect the educational community. In addition to these opportunities for the discussion of IP issues, the NCTE and the CCCC sponsor or facilitate the following:

Intellectual Property Caucus

The IP Caucus was formed in 1994. While it is not a formal organization within the NCTE or CCCC, it has a strong working relationship with both. Each spring, at the CCCC’s annual convention, the IP Caucus holds a meeting, open to all, at which participants break into roundtables to discuss IP-related developments that have affected or are likely to affect the educational community. For example, during the last caucus, in March of 2012, educators at one roundtable discussed the need to re-think academic integrity statements in light of the fact that research from the Citation Project and LILAC Group, among others, provides evidence that what we currently are doing—threatening students and focusing on punishment—is not working. In view of that fact, roundtable participants considered ways to focus on learning rather than penalties.

In 2013, the IP Caucus will again invite educators who are concerned with issues of copyright, fair use, openness, remix, access, and the ownership and use of intellectual property to join in thought-provoking discussions on these topics.

Intellectual Property Committee

The IP Committee was established in 1996, largely at the initiative of the Intellectual Property Caucus, and maintains a close relationship with that group as it promotes discussion among CCCC and NCTE members about IP issues. It also develops policy statements and pedagogical materials on IP-related issues and fosters research on IP topics. Specifically, the Intellectual Property Committee is charged with the following:

  • keep the CCCC and NCTE memberships informed about intellectual property developments, through reports in the CCCC newsletter and in other NCTE and CCCC forums,
  • maintain a close working relationship with the Caucus on Intellectual Property and Composition Studies,
  • develop policy statements to guide writing teachers’ and researchers’ uses of coursepacks, electronic materials, etc., and
  • address issues of concern to the organizations, such as interpretations of fair use (e.g., in relation to photocopying, use of unpublished material, use of copyrighted materials in multimedia, use of graphic images, etc.); copyright debates and evolving policies regarding electronic rights in publishing and use of published materials; safeguarding the public domain; attitudes and practices regarding authorship of texts, including students’ texts (e.g., collaboration; acknowledgment of sources; plagiarism); and other topics.

IP Annual

Since 2006, one way that the Intellectual Property Committee has both “ke[pt] the CCCC and NCTE memberships informed about intellectual property developments” and “maintain[ed] a close working relationship with the Caucus on Intellectual Property and Composition Studies” is through the joint sponsorship of the IP Annual, a yearly report on major IP developments that is hosted by NCTE/CCCC. The first annual, covering events in 2005, consisted of three articles, one on a lawsuit against the Google book scanning project (still being litigated eight years later), and two on rulings in other significant cases, BMG Music v. Gonzalez and MGM v. Grokster. The latest annual, Top Intellectual Property Developments of 2011, consists of six articles, including an essay on open access developments, a report on a significant court ruling affecting the scope of the public domain, and an article on a campaign against legislation that might have restricted public access to publicly funded research. The entire IP Annual series is accessible at the web site of the Committee on Intellectual Property.

IP Reports

In 2009, another collaboration between the IP Committee and the IP Caucus got under way with the publication of the first monthly IP Report in the NCTE InBox. As of today, thirty-six of these reports have been published. These brief articles introduce educators to resources relevant to IP issues and alert them to legislation and court cases that may affect them as writers, researchers, and instructors. Recent reports have included a wide range of articles, from IP considerations that affect textbook affordability to the ins and outs of a lawsuit involving the scanning of copyrighted publications (HathiTrust Case).

Opportunities for Involvement

The IP Committee is a formally constituted group that meets annually at the CCCC convention. During the rest of the year, its members communicate online via their NCTE Connected Community. The IP Caucus, on the other hand, is not a formal part of the NCTE/CCCC, but it works closely with the IP Committee. In fact, the membership is overlapping, as IP Caucus members tend to volunteer to serve on the IP Committee. In addition, the senior chair of the Caucus serves on the Committee. In a sense, then, if you attend the Caucus, you have a voice on the Committee. So come and be heard at next year’s CCCC Convention! Learn about the IP issues that affect you and your students, ask questions, and express opinions. In the meantime, the IP Caucus and the IP Committee, with the support of the NCTE/CCCC, will continue to publish both the IP Annual and the monthly IP Reports as they endeavor to keep educators up to date on rapidly evolving events in the field of IP.

Thank you to Martine Courant Rife, Mike Edwards, Jeff Galin, and Jim Purdy, whose ideas (and occasionally language) were appropriated for this report.

This column is sponsored by the Intellectual Property Committee of the CCCC and the CCCC-Intellectual Property Caucus. The IP Caucus maintains a mailing list. If you would like to receive notices of programs sponsored by the Caucus or of opportunities to submit articles either to this column or to the annual report on intellectual property issues, please contact


Intellectual Property Reports Main Page

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