Monday, January 15, 2007

TWEN and copyright

This semester, I'm trying something new with my Copyright class: TWEN, instead of Georgetown's homebrewed courseware system. Both allow controlled access to course materials, external links, class discussion, etc., but I'm trying TWEN to see if I can take advantage of a few features -- customized polls that can be taken in class or outside it, as well as office hours scheduling integrated with the course website.

Password protection has some nice features. Even though publishers demanded security measures as part of the TEACH Act allowing certain types of copying for academic purposes, however, they've now discovered that password protection (like encrypting P2P traffic) has the distinct disadvantage of preventing external monitoring. They're nervous that professors are putting up electronic materials on closed course sites instead of getting CCC licenses. For a fairly pro-publisher take, see this story, which includes a discussion of Cornell's agreement with the AAP. For the University of California's more aggressive pro-fair use stance, see here.

TWEN makes it easy for me to link to Westlaw materials, to which the students of course have free access by virtue of their Westlaw accounts. TWEN makes it slightly harder to upload non-Westlaw materials, and imposes a 15 MB individual/100 MB total limit on document size. Providing free courseware for professors is, it seems, another way publishers can get control of the ways in which schools use copyrighted works, supplanting copyright (including fair use and TEACH Act rights) with contract.

I am looking forward to finding out whether the advantages of TWEN outweigh the restrictions. I'm in a good position -- if the polls aren't that helpful, I can switch back to Georgetown's own less constrained system.

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