Legal Issues in the Use of Technology in Higher Education: Copyright and Privacy in the Academy

Legal Issues in the Use of Technology in Higher Education: Copyright and Privacy in the Academy

Charles L. Guest (University of South Alabama, USA) and Joyce M. Guest (University of South Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-147-8.ch006
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In recent years, explosive growth in the use of technology in higher education has resulted in numerous changes to institutional policy and practice. This chapter is focused upon two technology-related issues, copyright and privacy, that have had a significant impact on such policy and practice. The chapter includes a brief review of the historical context, of the legal dimensions, and of current practice related to these issues. As is also reflected in the body of literature on these topics, a heavier emphasis is placed on copyright.
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Copyright law is that body of law dealing with identifying and securing author rights with respect to writings and other creative works. These rights allow the author or creator to control the use of the work and the creation of derivative works by others. According to the United States Copyright Office (2009), copyright means, literally, “the right to copy” (p. 1) and the concept provides legal protection for “original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations” (p. 1). Copyright extends to the expression of an idea or discovery in some tangible medium and its protection begins the moment the idea or discovery is fixed in such a medium. Copyright does not extend to the idea itself but, rather, to the expression of the idea. A theory, for example, is not copyrightable but the paper in which the theory is described is copyrightable and may not be used, except in certain limited circumstances, without the author’s permission.

The concept of owning the right to use, edit, reproduce, and perform or distribute your work dates, at least as evidenced by the codification of laws protecting such rights, to the period after the development of the printing press. Deazley (2004) indicated that, in England, laws such as the Licensing Act of 1662 protected printers, specifically the Company of Stationers, and granted them a near monopoly on rights related to publishing. Additionally, this act allowed for censorship of the press on the part of the monarch and government. In 1710, however, Parliament passed the Statute of Anne which established an author’s ownership for a period of 14 years and, if the author was still alive, renewable for 14 more (Association of Research Libraries, 2009). In the United States, Congress enacted the first copyright law in 1790 and, in 1870, centralized copyright functions in the Library of Congress where they continue to reside (United States Copyright Office, 2009).

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