I am delighted to report that the Berkman Center has released the white paper on which I have been working, along with Professor Terry Fisher and a terrific team of Berkman fellows and Harvard Law students, for the last year. The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age explores the ways in which copyright-related restrictions impede innovative educational uses of digital content. The full paper is available in a navigable HTML web page here or as a PDF download through SSRN here. The research and writing, including two workshops involving a cross-section of experts, were funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
I’ll have more to say later; for now I’ll just quote from the abstract:
Drawing on research, interviews, two participatory workshops with experts in the field, and the lessons drawn from four detailed case studies, the white paper identifies four obstacles as particularly serious ones:
- Unclear or inadequate copyright law relating to crucial provisions such as fair use and educational use;
- Extensive adoption of “digital rights management” technology to lock up content;
- Practical difficulties obtaining rights to use content when licenses are necessary;
- Undue caution by gatekeepers such as publishers or educational administrators.
The white paper concludes with some discussion of paths toward reform that might improve the situation, including certain types of legal reform, technological improvements in the rights clearance process, educator agreement on best practices, and increased use of open access distribution.
The case studies, in particular, help illuminate a set of problems that deserve far more attention.