Intellectual Property and Education
- John WillinskyJohn WillinskyStanford Graduate School of Education
Concerns about intellectual property in education typically involve administrative interest in improving institutional compliance with copyright and patent laws. The focus on compliance, rather than on intellectual property as an area of educational inquiry for students raises two questions: Are educational institutions adequately preparing students (a) to participate in a global economy that is increasingly driven by intellectual property and (b) for a future in which the creation and distribution of intellectual property is being reshaped by the emerging digital era? The educational value of intellectual property begins, however, with history of the concept in which learning played a strong role in giving shape to the idea of text as an intangible good associated with distinct properties, rights, and responsibilities, with all of this taking place well before the 18th-century introduction of the modern concepts of copyright and patent law. In light of this history and its contemporary standing, intellectual property has much to offer as a way for students and teachers to gain insight into the nature of creative work in relation to private property and the public domain. While education benefits from exceptions made for “fair use” and other exemptions in copyright law, the digital era has seen the introduction of new intellectual property strategies that support the collective educational enterprise, including Creative Commons licensing, open educational resources, open access to research, and open source software. While intellectual property has played a small part in business education and composition classes in the past, a number of innovative programs now involve students in different approaches to balancing the private and public interests associated with this concept, suggesting the value that intellectual property holds, as a teachable topic, for the curriculum and for thinking, more broadly, about education’s role as a public good.