Friday, January 20, 2006

UCLA: taping of professors to expose radicals generates controversy

A "pay so we can play" proposal is generating a lot of controversy, and even includes former Patent Office director Rogan. As one who taped a lot of professors in law school, I can't get as excited about this as some of the other folks.

As to the taping of the lectures themselves, the professor would own copyright only if said lecture were fixed in a tangible medium, and could sue only if the material were registered with the copyright office (if deemed a work for hire, the employer university would be the one suing). Any hypothetical copyright action would be interesting, because the infringer would not be competing with the professor/university in the education business and presumably would not be selling the tapes/transcripts to compete. Rather, it would be an exercise of free speech.
NEVERTHELESS, one might review decisions circa 1990 by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the New Era cases, involving publication of the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard.

Individually, I would think that, if the professor really believed in what he/she was saying, he/she wouldn't care about being taped. The only law professors I saw who cared about copying (in this case, not making available former exams) were professors of limited ability, who didn't have that much to say (and probably had only "one exam" in them).

[Just as a small aside, one can also find some inspiration in cases involving authors of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, such as Groden and Lane. Note that even one of the lawyers got involved in disciplinary action.]

from Reuters:

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters, Jan. 19, 2006) -- An alumni group dedicated to "exposing the most radical professors" at the University of California at Los Angeles is offering to pay students $100 to record classroom lectures of suspect faculty.

The Web site of the Bruin Alumni Association also includes a "Dirty Thirty" list of professors considered by the group to be the most extreme left-wing members of the UCLA faculty, as well as profiles on their political activities and writings.

UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale on Thursday denounced the campaign as "reprehensible," and school officials warned that selling or distributing recordings of classroom lectures without an instructor's consent violates university policy.

News of the campaign prompted former Republican congressman James Rogan, who helped lead impeachment proceedings against former President Bill Clinton in the U.S. House of Representatives, to resign from the group's advisory board.

"I am uncomfortable to say the least with this tactic," Rogan, now a lawyer in private practice in California, said in an e-mail resignation made public by the Los Angeles Times. "It places students in jeopardy of violating myriad regulations and laws."

At least two other members of the group's advisory board, which consists of more than 20 individuals, also have quit over the group's efforts to have students record their professors.

The group, which is not affiliated with UCLA or its official alumni association, is the creation of Andrew Jones, a 2003 UCLA graduate who said he runs the organization mostly on his own with $22,000 in private donations.

Jones told Reuters that he is out to "restore an atmosphere of respectful political discourse on campus" and says his efforts are aimed at academics who proselytize students from either side of the ideological spectrum, conservative or liberal.

"We are concerned solely with indoctrination, one-sided presentation of ideological controversies and unprofessional classroom behavior," Jones said on his Web site.

Jones' site describes his campaign as "dedicated to exposing UCLA's most radical professors" and his list of the university's "worst of the worst" singles out only professors he says hold left-wing views.

Jones said he would accept recordings only from students whose professors consented in writing to have their lectures taped. And students would be paid $100 only if they furnished complete recordings of every class session, as well as detailed lecture notes and all other teaching materials from the class.

Jones, who also is offering to pay $50 for only notes and materials, said so far one student has signed up to participate and two others have expressed interest.

UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said the university planned to send Jones a letter warning him that faculty hold copyrights to all their course materials and that his campaign encouraged students to violate school policy.


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