We’re developing a tool to support university lecturers in ensuring copyright compliance when they reuse (learning) materials. This tool gives universities insight into the reuse of digital (scientific) materials in education.
Lack of insight and potential additional costs
University lecturers select articles and chapters of books for their students and put these articles and book chapters in the digital learning environment. It is often unclear how this content is protected by copyright. Lecturers might inadvertently be using materials without the copyright holder’s agreement, with the result that authors and publishers do not receive the remuneration they are entitled to.
We believe that there is an easier and better way. At present, the copyright holder’s agreement is, sometimes wrongly, not requested at all (which may result in hefty fines for the universities down the line). Conversely, sometimes universities pay twice by acquiring materials for which they already hold a license agreement. Furthermore, lecturers are often not aware whether an open access version of their chosen article is available.
The Easy Access regulation apparently isn’t that easy
With the introduction of the ‘Easy Access regulation’ in 2017, a contract between publishers and universities on the reuse of scientific texts in particular, it was agreed that short and medium length texts would no longer require the copyright holder’s agreement (but would still, of course, have to be paid for). This already makes it somewhat easier for lecturers. However, in reality, it seems to be difficult to gain an overview of all the content that is being copied and then to calculate the amount to be paid based on that. Afterwards, some 50,000 to 100,000 used texts (per university) have to be checked manually to determine the type of acquisition, whether short, medium-length or other, and whether or not the institution has a license agreement that includes usage in education. This is actually quite a tedious task.
Tool for reusing digital (learning) materials: making things easier
Both the publishers (represented by UvO foundation) and the universities want to reduce after-the-fact checking of legislation and contracts and move towards assistance with up-front compliance. That’s why the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands) has asked SURF to work on finding a solution. We are currently developing a tool that gives university lecturers advice on reusing copyrighted materials, license agreements and open access alternatives in their digital learning environment.
What I love about this project is that we are working in a multidisciplinary team of lawyers, lecturers, IT specialists and content experts. We are working at various universities and other organizations in the Netherlands and the diversity is rather enjoyable. It is also inspiring to see that there is a great need for this tool: universities want to participate in the pilot scheme and, although it is still out of scope, there is also clear interest from Universities of Applied Science (hbo).
Benefits of the CopyRIGHT tool
I believe the tool we are going to develop offers great benefits. The advice feature will be an important aspect for lecturers. They choose what to offer their students at all times, but we help with copyright compliance and indicate possible open access versions. Another very useful feature of the tool is the possibility to create reports and to obtain an overview of the materials reused, so that this no longer needs to be done manually afterwards.
What are the next steps?
In the Netherlands and elsewhere, there are tools from institutions and commercial parties that can form part of the tool we ultimately wish to produce. Considerable adjustments will be necessary to make a tool suitable for all Dutch universities. That is why we are going to create mock-ups of the CopyRIGHT tool and have them tested by publishers and lecturers in the coming months. These are tentative, potential designs for the tool, showing the various features per screen, for example. This will give us more and more practical insight into how the solution should work. We are also developing a business model. We intend to have a pilot version available in 2020 and shall carry out pilot runs with three universities. Then, in 2021, we intend to deliver a tool to be used by as many universities as possible.
But first: The Education days (De Onderwijsdagen)
During the Education days in November, we shall be hosting a workshop where visitors can try out the mock-ups (tentative designs). We wish to collect as much input and feedback as possible. It will be a fun and important stage in this process. It’s very important to us to make a tool that everyone will use and that meets their needs.
Collaboration during the development of the CopyRIGHT tool
The CopyRIGHT project is a collaborative effort between SURF, the universities, and the UvO foundation. This project will run from 2019 to 2021. Are you or your university interested but not yet affiliated? Please get in touch with projectmanager Karin van Grieken (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would love to give you information and have you involved.
About Karin van Grieken
Karin van Grieken is senior projectmanager. She blogs about (international) collaboration projects, which are always linked with open science or, more broadly, with content or publishing.