Copywriting Course Materials

I really don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before this, but having read this story about a student posting their test on-line for profit, I’ll be adding a copyright notice to all of my course materials, homeworks and exams on Monday. I understand that students at my school will hold on to and swap old assignments and exams, but creating on-line databanks, and in particular profiting off of my creatve work, is unacceptable. The article says it well in this quote:

Dane Ciolino, who teaches copyright law at Loyola University in New Orleans, said Narva took “an age-old tradition of keeping test banks and posting it online, and that makes new issues arise.”

“It’s not as simple as he says … because by posting it online he’s in effect making many, many more copies,” Ciolino said, adding that Narva can’t claim fair use if he’s selling access to the tests.

While copyright notices are not required to maintain copyright (at least in the US, for modern works), the US Copyright Office does encourage them, stating that for visually perceptable works all that is required is the (c) copyright symbol, the work copyright or the abbreviation “Copr.”, the year of first publicatation, and the name of the owner of the copyright.
They also say:

The author or copyright owner may wish to place a copyright notice on any unpublished copies or phonorecords that leave his or her control.

Example: Unpublished work (c) 2002 Jane Doe

While I’m still working on the wording, I’ll also be adding the usual “All rights reserved; this work may not be distributed without the prior written consent of the author.” at the end.

Such a notice protects not only from sale but also from copying and free distribution to a magnitude that the commercial value of the original is decreased. Certainly, as a professor, one of the values that I offer my college and my students is the extensive time I spend crafting course materials. Many professors, after teaching a class, will use their materials as the basis for textbooks they write – if all of my materials are freely available elsewhere, it significantly decreases the value of any text that I might write. A school’s reputation is to a large extend built on the reputation of its faculty, and if the faculty’s course materials are not protected, the value of the education offered by the college, comparative to other schools, is also decreased.

This has nothing to do with a desire to reuse old tests or assignments (I’m not that naive to think I could get away with that even without the internet); it has to do with protecting the value of my creative works.

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