UCLA is taking steps to restore the streaming of previously purchased instructional content behind password-protected course websites, a practice the campus believes is permitted under various provisions in the federal Copyright Act.
Campus officials temporarily suspended the practice in January as a good-faith gesture while UCLA attempted to resolve a copyright claim with a trade association. After carefully reviewing options and implications, UCLA has notified the Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) that it intends to restore the service.
"Course instruction long ago ceased to be bound by the walls of the classroom, and we are obligated to provide students with appropriate instructional content in whatever medium helps to foster an effective learning environment," said Jim Davis, UCLA vice provost for information technology and chief academic technology officer. "We're well aware the outcome of this dispute could affect other educational institutions, and it's important that UCLA take a leadership role and demonstrate just how critical the appropriate use of technology is to our educational mission."
Campus officials say the instructional uses in which UCLA engages are permitted under the fair-use limitation on the exclusive rights of a copyright owner. For example, UCLA's practices are consistent with landmark court rulings that allowed video recording of television programs for viewing at a later date (so-called "time-shifting") and the transfer of musical content from one device to another ("space-shifting").
The safe harbor of the TEACH Act, which permits transmissions of content for educational purposes, and the face-to-face exemption of the Copyright Act also support UCLA's uses.
Campus officials estimate that streamed content will return to course websites during the 2010 spring quarter. Faculty are first being asked to specify the educational purpose of making videos available as part of their instruction.
"While we believe our previous protocols were consistent with applicable laws, this modification provides an extra layer of assurance and transparency so that we can resume streaming videos as soon as possible rather than prolonging the impact on students and faculty through additional negotiations," Davis said.
UCLA's decision to restart the streaming of instructional content was informed in part by principles developed jointly by the Academic Senate and the UCLA Information Technology Planning Board (ITPB), the faculty-administration committee charged with IT policy.
"The streaming video service directly benefits the learning experience of students," said Robin Garrell, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "It allows them the flexibility to view instructional materials at times that ensure maximum productivity, when they can best contemplate and respond to the materials, and it exposes them to a broader range of educational material."
"The UCLA faculty and administration quickly reached consensus on both the need to restore these essential instructional services and to assert our rights to use intellectual property within the bounds of existing copyright laws," said Christine Borgman, chair of the Information Technology Planning Board and UCLA Presidential Professor of Information Studies.
Under the auspices of the UCLA Office of Instructional Development, campus Instructional Media Collections & Services (IMCS) spends approximately $45,000 annually to purchase media specifically for instructional uses. In 2005, UCLA began converting titles requested by faculty into a streamable format and making them available to students for coursework.
Content examples include Shakespeare productions for English courses, foreign-language films for linguistic and foreign-language courses, and documentaries for history and sociology courses — all integral to the class instruction of students. To protect against unintended uses, streamed material is available only behind password-protected course websites, only to students enrolled in the applicable course, and only via the UCLA intranet. These measures prevent downloading, uploading, file-sharing and copying.
In May 2009, UCLA was approached by a single distributor of DVDs who, for the first time, offered streamed content for instructional purposes. UCLA indicated interest in the new products but also advised that it was streaming previously purchased content. Only after that time did the trade association allege a copyright violation.
In a good-faith gesture to allow the parties to discuss possible resolution of the dispute outside the legal system, UCLA temporarily suspended the posting of streamed content, effective at the start of the winter quarter in January 2010.
To minimize the impact on students, the content will remain available to view in the Office of Instructional Development media lab under extended hours through the spring quarter.