NOU 2014: 5

MOOCs for Norway— New digital learning methods in higher education

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12 Copyright and open access

On assignment from the MOOC Commission, Professor (J.D.) Olav Torvund (UiO) prepared the memo “Noen opphavsrettslige spørsmål knyttet til MOOC” (Certain copyright issues associated with MOOCs). On assignment from the MOOC Commission, Assistant Professor Gisle Hannemyr (UiO) has prepared the memo “Rettighetshåndtering og lisensiering av læremidler ved MOOC” (Handling copyright and licensing of course materials with MOOCs). The two memos are enclosed with the Commission’s recommendation.

12.1 Copyright and licensing

The copyright issues related to MOOCs are diverse and complex.1 Key issues are agreement licences for course materials, copyright to material produced in MOOCs, for MOOC producers, students and third parties, the right of quotation, the use of photos and video as part of teaching and the right to the actual lectures. Another key topic is challenges related to cooperation agreements with international providers of MOOC platforms and proprietary platform solutions. When Norwegian institutions use services from international platform providers, Norwegian law does not apply in the processing and securing of data, cf. Chapter 11.

12.2 Open access and digital learning resources

OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OER) are two development features that can be associated with the development of MOOCs. They may be related both to the use of technology in higher education institutions, as well as better access to training and education.


The OCW movement started around the turn of the century, when the University of Tübingen, as the first higher education institution, published recordings from classes, open and free of charge on the Internet. However, the movement did not catch on until a few years later, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) established MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW). The objective was as follows:

… to make MIT course materials that are used in the teaching of almost all undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. MIT OCW will radically alter technology-enhanced education at MIT, and will serve as a model for university dissemination of knowledge in the Internet age.2

The OCW material is usually organised as courses, and often includes planning materials and evaluation tools in addition to the academic content. The course materials are open-licensed and made available to everyone via the Internet.3

OCW courses have grown in scope since the start-up. In 2007, the British Open University had 16 million downloads via iTunes U. In an illustration used by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, it is estimated that more than 250 education institutions are offering a total of 9 000 courses.4

Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access

Launched by UNESCO in 2002, Open Educational Resources (OER) is closely associated with OCW. OER has a broader impact, and describes any education, learning or research material that is openly available for use by teachers and students without payment of royalties or licence fees. OER can freely be reused, adapted and distributed. The rights to OER are regulated through open licensing, typically through Creative Commons (CC) licensing. This licensing is particularly relevant in connection with MOOCs, e.g. because it facilitates sharing, changing and further processing of e.g. course materials through the two licensing types “CC Attribution” and “CC Attribution-ShareAlike”.5

OER is not the same as Open Access, which is open access to peer-reviewed scientific articles online, where open access has been granted for this purpose. Open Access can be part of OER, depending on the rights associated with the individual article, and may play an important role in strengthening research-based education. Lately, Open Access has become more common in terms of making scientific production more available. This was initiated e.g. by university libraries, who believe the cost of subscribing to and handling scientific publications on paper have become high.

The University of Bergen is an example of a Norwegian educational institution that has formulated a policy for its students and researchers in connection with Open Access. As part of the university board’s policy, the university’s employees are encouraged to make their scientific publications available in open archives or through open publication. The university library manages a separate budget used to cover author payments related to Open Access publication.6

Open Access has gained a key role internationally, and UNESCO has e.g. prepared a separate policy in this area.7 According to UNESCO, it is also an expressed wish that publicly funded educational resources shall be freely available as OER:

The declaration marks a historic moment in the growing movement for Open Educational Resources and calls on governments worldwide to openly license publicly funded educational materials for public use.8

12.3 The Commission’s considerations

As shown by the enclosed memos from Olav Torvund and Gisle Hannemyr, the copyright issues associated with MOOCs are diverse and complex. The Commission has not had the opportunity to discuss this topic in more depth, but would like to refer to the two appendices for a more detailed account of the issues. The Commission believes that the institutions, in their development of MOOCs, must look closely into the copyright issues, to ensure that the courses are prepared in line with the prevailing applicable legal framework. Norway Opening Universities and the Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education are responsible for the DelRett service. The service was established to give advice on copyright issues, and can be used by both employees and students.9

The Commission believes the questions regarding copyright and licensing of material should be examined further. Among other things, there is a need to consider changes so it becomes easier to practice the regulations and develop open MOOCs.

The Commission believes the education institutions should focus both on the students’ rights to their own material, and employees’ rights to the material they produce and education they contribute to when developing MOOCs. For example, it is important to have a concise clarification of and good information regarding this when starting a MOOC.

The Commission recommends that the institutions stimulate production of open educational resources (OER) and that both open and other resources are clearly marked with terms of use, for example Creative Commons. The Commission recommends that employers facilitate and encourage their employees to share and re-use educational resources.

The Commission believes that Norwegian authorities, in line with recommendations from UNESCO, should also work actively internationally to promote the OER principle and Open Access in higher education.

Digital educational resources are saved in different places in the higher education sector, even within the same institution. The resources are often located in closed rooms on the Internet. The Commission believes open educational resources should be made more readily available, both as regards use and sharing. The Commission recommends creating an overview of available open educational resources for higher education on the internet.

12.4 The Commission’s recommendations

  • The Commission recommends that the questions relating to copyright and licensing be considered more closely in order to make it easier to develop open MOOC solutions.

  • The Commission recommends that, in developing MOOCs, the educational institutions clarify appropriate agreements for the students' and employees’ rights to their own material.

  • The Commission recommends that the institutions stimulate production of open digital learning resources, and that all learning resources are marked with terms of use.

  • The Commission is of the opinion that Norwegian authorities should work actively, also internationally, to promote the principle of open digital learning resources and Open Access in higher education.

  • The Commission recommends establishing an overview of available open digital learning resources for higher education.



This is discussed further in appendices 1 and 2.


MIT (2013) MIT Open Courseware – Fact Sheet. Available from: ocw-facts.html (Retrieved: 29 November 2013).


Open Courseware Consortium (2013) About us. Available from: (Retrieved: 29 November 2013).


OpenCourseWare (2013) OpenCourseWare: changing how we learn since 1999. Available from: opencourseware-changing-how-we-learn-since-1999/ ?TUD-USE-COOKIES=yes (Retrieved: 29 November 2013).


Creative Commons (2014) Lisenser (Licences). Available from: (Retrieved: 15 April 2014).


University of Bergen (2014) Open Access. Available from: publisering/open-access (Retrieved: 13 April 2014).


UNESCO (2014) Open Access Policy. Available from: HQ/ERI/pdf/oa_policy_rev2.pdf (Retrieved: 13 April 2014).


UNESCO (2013) Open Educational Resources Congress passes historical declaration. Available from: information/resources/news-and-in-focus-articles/ in-focus-articles/2012/open-educational-resources- congress-passes-historic-declaration/(Retrieved: 29 November 2013).


DelRett (2014). Available from: (Retrieved: 30 April 2014).

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