OER14 homeApplication › Mrs Deborah Ferns

MOOCs and intellectual property rights

Monday 11:30-13:00 (3), Marlborough Suite

Type: Short paper

Theme: MOOCs and open courses

#oer14 #abs93


Mrs Deborah Ferns, Legal Information Specialist, Jisc Lega,l [email protected]
Jason Miles-Campbell, Manager, Jisc Legal, [email protected]



Jisc Legal is publishing a guidance paper on MOOCs and the law for staff in universities and colleges involved in developing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which highlights in particular the intellectual property rights (IPR) issues and data protection. For the purposes of OER14 the presentation will focus on intellectual property rights highlighting the copyright ownership and licensing challenges in MOOCs, many of which will be familiar to those involved in developing open educational resources. It is important for institutions to get it right when it comes to copyright clearance for materials in MOOCs as one of the drivers for universities embracing MOOCs is to act as a showcase for the institution and there is a risk of reputational damage in the event materials require to be taken down as result of copyright infringement.


The paper draws upon Jisc Legal’s experience in copyright and open educational resources and explains the IPR considerations when developing a MOOC from ensuring the rights are cleared for content to licensing. Similar to OER, institutions will require specific copyright clearance and be unable to rely on blanket licences such as the CLA which cover content within traditional courses. An analysis was undertaken of the main MOOC platform providers terms and conditions to understand their position with respect to IPR – what IPR is retained by the institution, what the MOOC participants are licensed to do with it, what is said with regards to user generated content.


There are lessons to be learned from OER in terms of clearing copyright in the content of MOOCs. In terms of open access, MOOCs tend to be open in terms of open to everyone rather than open for adaptation and reuse. Some MOOC platform providers are embracing open access but for the majority of MOOC courses the IPR in the content is retained by the institution and participants are merely licensed to use the content for the course of the MOOC but not to reuse and relicense it.


Further research may involve tracking how MOOC platform providers’ terms and conditions develop and whether there is an increased uptake of open access in the sense the term is understood in OER. It will also be interesting to identify if there any infringement actions arising from MOOCs.

Further details

Keywords: IPR, MOOCs, licensing, copyright, OER, infringement, property rights

Mrs Deborah Ferns, Legal Information Specialist, Jisc Legal

Twitter: @jisclegal

Twitter abstract: MOOCs and Intellectual Property Rights copyright and licensing, institutions managing risk, lessons from OER