UBC Connect's copyright system gets an update

UBC's copyright system for Blackboard Connect is receiving an update that will be in effect for faculty and staff for the rest of the coming 2016/17 school year.

“Copyright law is not static. Over the coming two years, we are anticipating several developments in copyright law,” said UBC provost and VP Academic Angela Redish and UBCO VP Academic Cynthia Mathieson in a recent broadcast e-mail sent to all students, faculty and staff at both campuses.

Michael Jaworski, legal counsel for UBC’s copyright office, told The Ubyssey in an emailed statement that “the recent broadcast email does not introduce any new copyright policies. Rather, it is alerting faculty and staff of a new function in Connect, which supports the exercise of due diligence on copyright matters. One element of due diligence is creating a record of the copyright status of a file.”

Essentially, Blackboard Learning keeps a detailed record of all uploads and materials that an instructor uses for a course. This includes the material’s copyright status in metadata, which is defined as data about other data, metaphorically comparable to having information about a book. The new system will have an “alert” setup for any content that is missing metadata that is essential for copyright purposes. The incomplete material in question will then be flagged if the copyright status needs to be updated.

“Connect already has this record-keeping feature — now [it] will prompt instructors to utilize this record-making feature,” said Jaworski in an emailed statement.

But what does this mean for students, courses and instructors?

In 2013, when UBC decided to opt out of a licensing agreement with Access Copyrights, some professors were left unable to upload PDF documents to Connect for their students. The situation left some deciding to just remove course materials altogether in order to “avoid the hassle.”

However, despite the copyright update allowing an opportunity to “review the material and remove any unnecessary content,” according to Jaworski, this change will have no impact on students. 

“Instructors will not be required to remove the material in question if metadata on Connect is missing,” said Jaworski in an emailed statement. “The University has a service called the Library Online Course Reserves … where trained staff take care of scanning, uploading and clearing copyright [for] instructors, including paying any required ... license fees.”

This service will prevent instructors from feeling pressured to fill out missing information and prevents problems like those in 2013 from occurring.

To aid with the confusion over the ever changing systems of copyright issues on campus — and the accompanying technology — the university’s copyright office has set up a series of workshops throughout October for staff and faculty members to attend. These workshops are meant to answer questions about copyright in the classroom and navigating copyright in the digital world, as the new systems will be implemented up until the end of 2016.