Beginning xMOOC HLS1x:Copyright

It is pretty clear from my first login that  HLS1x: Copyright is a content based xMOOC, not that I was expecting something different. Yet watching the introductory video left no doubts, as Berkman Center for Internet and Society Director and Harvard Professor Terry Fisher outlined the 12 week course of study.

The course has three major aims which Dr. Fisher articulates clearly from the start.

First, an understanding of the basic principles of copyright law.

Second, an appreciation of the ways in which that law affects, for better and worse, creativity and innovation in a wide variety of artistic and technical fields. To that end, I’ll be providing along the way illustration of the ways that copyright works in literature, music, film, photography, graphic art, software, comedy, fashion, architecture, and so forth.

Third, I will try to provide you a critical understanding of the main theories of copyright, by which I mean the arguments developed over several centuries by economists, philosophers, and political theorists concerning the purposes or functions of the copyright system.

Safe to say that is a pretty ambitious agenda. It became quickly clear that there will be a fair amount of play between legal theory and practice. Things have been pretty lawyerly from the moment of admission. Not having much background in the law, I am going to be really curious as to how that impacts the experience. Scanning through the introductory discussion threads, the students are from all over the place, although there are a definitely students from other law schools involved. I suppose I will have a much better sense of atmosphere after Friday, when my group has a synchronous meeting.

Week 1, as to be expected is introductory with a 90 minute video lecture on the foundations of copyright law, which will include the system of multilateral treaties (addressing the boundaries of how nations shape and apply their individual copyright systems), the concept of originality, and the important legal distinctions between ideas, facts, and expression. Pretty heady stuff.

The whole course is split into two groups, one the focuses primarily on the judicial precedents and opinions from the United States, while the other focuses more on countries other than the US. Fortunately, I am in the group with the US emphasis, since that is most relevant to me. The assignments are all edited case-law readings.

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