Can universities force teachers to record their lectures? Are the declarations of academic freedom a mere performance? Are Zombie professors the future?
I’ve answered these and other questions yesterday when I presented ‘Death Becomes HE: The Rise of Lecture Capture in the Panopt(ic)o(n)’ at the coolest – and most feline – conference ever: Gikii 2021: The Light at the End of the Vaccination Syringe Edition (hosted virtually by Maanstricht University, 13-14 September 2021).
You can watch the video here and download the slides below:
This research is co-authored with Giulia Priora, Bernd Justin Jütte, and Léo Pascault and will appear with the more serious title of “Capturing the Uncapturable: The Relationship between Universities and Copyright through the Lens of the Audio-Visual Lecture Capture Policies” in the forthcoming book “Art and Literature in Copyright Law: Protecting the Rights of Creators and Managers of Artistic and Literary Works” edited for Edward Elgar by Enrico Bonadio and Cristiana Sappa.
In January 2021, Concordia University student and trans activist Aaron Ansuini was in shock when he found out that one of the professors who was teaching him had died in 2019. The lectures could be delivered by the zombie professor thanks to his lectures being recorded before his passing. The unsettling fact that the dead can replace living faculty members is the perfect metaphor for what is happening across higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of this, the rules on lecture capture represent a meaningful entry point to investigate strengths and weaknesses of the universities’ approach to the creation and use of protected content online. Through this lens, it is possible to reflect on both the underlying exacerbated power imbalance between universities and teachers, and the diverging approach towards copyright law across the European higher education landscape.
First, the paper considers whether the selected universities had a specific policy on lecture capture, and, if so, what it covered, and where the default rule sat in the continuum between opt-out and opt-in.
Then, it investigates issues of ownership of the lecture recordings, including the incorporated slides and other materials as well as the performance rights. Despite stark differences between the selected countries’ approach, the clear trend towards an increased expectation that teachers have to record their lectures epitomises the digital dispossession that is inherent to the platformisation of education. Nonetheless, the oft-forgotten rights in performances can still play a role in pursuing a fairer balance between the competing interests at play.