Legal Issues in the Development
and Use of Copyrighted Material in
Web-Based Distance Education
Tomas A. Lipinski
University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee
The expansion of education into digital environments is forcing all participants—educators, institutions, students, and proprietors (copyright owners)—to reexamine the nature of ownership and use rights. Although recent case law and legislation indicate future trends, many issues remained unresolved. Further, the developing legal environment suggests that the likely result will not favor the expansion of distance education without a cost, namely, the recognition and satisfaction of proprietary interests not only in monetary terms but also in terms of access. This recognition and satisfaction must also resolve the growing controversy over the ownership and control of faculty-created or -enhanced educational materials used to support the distance curriculum.
In the development of distance and Internet-based instruction, the issue of ownership under the intellectual property laws appears to fall in the area of content, not processes. Consequently, it is an issue of copyright, not patent. The material created by faculty is often loaded on a course Web site or recorded during a remote broadcast (Borow, 1998). There are three legal factors that impact or underlie the question of ownership:
Prepared by Tomas A. Lipinski, J. D., LL. M., Ph. D., this summary is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject matter covered. However, this information is not provided as a substitute for legal advice. If legal advice or expert assistance is required, the services of a competent legal professional should be retained.