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Release: March 16, 1999

Live Chat discussion focuses on 'Copyright and Course Materials on the Web'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Not long ago, professors who wanted to make course packets available to multiple students had to put in an order at the local copy center.

Today, those same professors can simply post the materials -- things like journal articles and book chapters -- on the World Wide Web so students can view, download or print them at their leisure. Or can they?

Organizers of an upcoming discussion titled "Copyright and Course Materials on the Web" say laws regarding what, and how, reproduced course materials may be placed on the Internet aren't terribly clear. By following some general guidelines and using common sense, however, they say professors should be able to avoid conflicts with publishers.

The presentation and discussion will be from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 30 in the Information Arcade at the University of Iowa Main Library. The event is part of the Live Chat series sponsored by the University of Iowa Libraries, Information Technology Services and the Center for Teaching.

While the session is geared toward faculty, teaching assistants and others who teach at the university, the public is invited to attend. For more information, call Carol Hughes, head of Information, Research and Instructional Services at the UI Main Library, at 335-5489.

Tom Rocklin, director of the Center for Teaching and a professor in the UI College of Education's Psychology and Quantitative Foundations Division, says there's growing incentive to put course materials on the Web. It saves faculty the cost and time of making paper copies, and it gives students the convenience of viewing and printing the materials at home or wherever a computer is located.

Rocklin said he polled students in a recent class of his to see whether they preferred to get an article they were required to read on paper or online.

"They all preferred online," he said.

In that instance, he said the course material came from a professional research association that readily granted its permission. But commercial publishers often have restrictions on the use and reproduction -- electronic or otherwise -- of their materials.

Under certain circumstances, the law allows reproduction for scholarly purposes under the so-called "fair use" concept. With the explosion in Internet use, however, materials can now be broadcast to hundreds, even thousands of people with the click of a button. To prevent that from happening, materials posted on the Internet may need to be made accessible only to a specific group of people via a password.

Hughes says complicating matters is the fact that recent changes in copyright laws extend protection even to materials that aren't clearly identified as such by the familiar copyright symbol -- the small, encircled letter "c."

"This is a real gray area," she said.

Rocklin said the one-hour discussion is likely to generate more questions than answers. But he said the meeting should help participants understand the basic principles involved.

"It's really about how we get materials to students," he said.

To find out about other Live Chat and related events, visit the University of Iowa Instructional Technology Calendar on the Web at