By Kevin Smith

This is a guest post by Barbara DeFelice, Program Director for Scholarly Communication, Copyright and Publishing at the Dartmouth College Library.

Dartmouth offers a small number of MOOCs, selected from faculty proposals, through the DartmouthX infrastructure. This includes a cross-unit team of librarians, educational designers, students and faculty. Dartmouth is providing this level of support for faculty to develop MOOCs in order to influence long-standing teaching practices through experiments in the MOOCs that are evaluated and brought into the on-campus learning experience.

Among the changes we see is a deeper understanding of transformative fair use in the teaching context, most notably through the development of the DartmouthX course Introduction to Italian Opera. The instructor, Professor Steve Swayne, needed to allow the students to view clips from different performances in order to illustrate his points and to engage the students with the material. That is allowed in the classroom under U.S.Copyright Law section 110, described as “performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction”.

The Opera MOOC provided a case that demanded different approaches and methods. The DartmouthX Opera course team felt strongly that all the content needed to be made available to all students even after the course was over, so neither classroom use of performances nor the TEACH Act applied. The instruction needed to be developed and filmed ahead of time, and so it was important to have a high degree of confidence that all the content in a video could be used for the MOOC audience. From on-going work providing education and outreach to the Dartmouth community about copyright, fair use, and permissions for using works in teaching and scholarship, the librarians had materials to guide the Dartmouth faculty in making a transformative fair use determination. However, this is not exercised very often, because it takes time and work on the part of the instructor.

When faced with the need to incorporate high quality video and audio, the team decided to make a transformative fair use case. The course team used guidelines developed by Dartmouth librarians in consultation with Dartmouth’s General Counsel for using copyrighted materials in DartmouthX courses. The amount used had to be only what was needed to make the teaching point, and the video and audio clips needed to be embedded into the lecture where the instructor commented on just those portions. This allowed the Introduction to Italian Opera MOOC to include clips of the most relevant and compelling video and audio performances into the instructional video lectures. This approach required in-depth deliberations and detailed work on the part of the course team, but all involved felt it was worth the effort. An example of this transformative fair use of copyrighted video is in the Introduction to Italian Opera Act 1, Scene 2, “Examples of Opera before Mozart”. Here, a video clip of Monteverdi’s Orfeo plays while Professor Swayne asks the viewer to consider how the music carries the message, which is a major theme of the course. Building on this work, the same team has developed a new MOOC, Introduction to German Opera, which launched in spring 2017.

Having worked through the copyright questions posed in the Italian Opera course with such good results, we now have more ways to incorporate copyrighted video and audio into the DartmouthX courses as Dartmouth continues to develop MOOCs in selected topic areas.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith is a librarian, a lawyer focusing on copyright issues, a scholarly communications advocate, and the Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas.

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