Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Barbara K. Petersen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenneth C. Killebrew,Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ann E. Barron, Ph.D.


Intellectual Property, Distance Education, Contracts, Faculty Ownership, Guidelines


Who cares about who owns online courses? Nobody, because that is not what the issue is really about. Ownership is an emotional issue, but controlling the rights of a copyrightable work is tangible and logical. The important question to answer is not who owns online courses, but who controls the rights of any copyrightable work. For universities and faculty members, getting over the emotional issues and down to the foundation of what is truly at stake is of major concern. While it is nearly impossible to create qualitative guidelines for copyright policies and/or contracts, it is eminently possible to examine existing policies and contracts and relate how a handful of universities are handling copyright and intellectual property issues pertaining to online courses.

The purpose of this thesis is to provide a starting point for this complex transaction in the form of a resource tool that includes some basic background about copyright law, relevant case law related to "work-for-hire," and relevant academic freedom issues.

The original work of this thesis is the creation of a tool, which reviews of a sampling of university policies pertaining to online copyright issues and ownership.

Accordingly, the contribution this thesis makes to the understanding and clarification of universities policies related to online material copyright ownership will be important for faculty members and universities in two ways.

First, it will help others develop better online copyright policies based on tangible issues rather than emotional ones. Second, this thesis can be a basis for others to build upon for future research on this important topic.