Innovation Asset Blog

Massive open online courses raise intellectual property questions

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are becoming increasingly popular at universities around the world. Who owns the intellectual property rights to the course material for MOOCs remains an important question in many cases. Whether the university hosting the course owns it or the original author of the curriculum does seems to depend largely on individual university policy.

Recently, English professor Cathy Davidson left Duke University to work at City University of New York. This career move raised questions about what should be done with the rights to the MOOC she created while teaching at Duke. The course, called "History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education," was given by the Intellectual Property Board, one of the Provost's committees, to Davidson. This decision was based on online course and intellectual property policies at the university that were created in 2000.

"The revisions in 2000 were drafted with an eye for online education," Laurence Helfer, the Harry S. Chadwick professor of law at Duke's Law School, commented. "[Duke] didn't know what it would look like, but the directors knew it was coming. [The policy] is efficiently broad and has flexible language so that it can be applied to the types of MOOCs that are offered today."

Different universities and course authors have come to different agreements on the intellectual property status of MOOCs, and the question continues to evolve, according to Times Higher Education. 

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.