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UCLA professors banned from posting videos online

By Parisa Mahdad

January 24, 2010 9:44 pm

As of winter quarter 2010, teachers are no longer permitted to post videos on their course Web sites.

The Association for Information Media and Equipment, a trade organization, has accused UCLA of infringing on copyright laws.

On Nov. 30, 2009, Patricia O’Donnell, manager of Instructional Media Collections and Services, distributed a letter notifying professors that beginning winter quarter 2010, they were no longer allowed to post videos to their course Web sites using such video streaming systems as Video Furnace, which allowed teachers to manage and distribute videos online to their students.

“While Instructional Media and Collections Services exercised a good-faith belief that its uses were consistent with the exemptions for face-to-face teaching and fair use, (the Association for Information Media and Equipment)claims that the uses are not exempt and violate copyright,” the letter stated.

During the five years UCLA allowed professors to post videos online using Video Furnace, the university was under the impression that it was exempt from specific provisions under the Copyright Act. However, the Association for Information Media and Equipment claims that UCLA has infringed on copyright laws.

“UCLA disagrees with the litigation threat. … We stand behind the service, and we are exploring options to resolve the litigation threats made by the trade organization,” said UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton.

Due to this ban on video posting, professors and students must resort to UCLA’s Instructional Media Lab, which has recently reduced its viewing hours in light of this year’s budget cuts. The lab is now also closed on the weekends.

“There has been a considerable upswing in the amount of students who come to the Instructional Media Lab,” said Daniel Kim, a fourth-year economics student who works at the Instructional Media Lab.

According to Kim, the reduction in lab hours has initiated complaints, especially from graduate students and visiting professors whose research depends on films.

“I feel guilty to assign movies especially when the Media Lab hours fall between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. When do (students) have a gap of two hours to watch a movie in between class?” said Christiane Meyer, a molecular, cell and developmental biology professor.

Meyer, who normally assigned three movies for her MCD Bio 40 class called “AIDS and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” will now drop a movie from the course material in light of the recent limitations on video accessibility.

“I’m not blaming anyone, but it certainly will impact the class. It takes up valuable instruction time to show a movie in class and for one of my TAs to do a movie screening on a Friday evening. It’s more work for my TA and more work for me to arrange for a room and equipment,” Meyer said.

Eric Gans, a French cinema professor, has also been impacted by the video ban. Because his class falls on Mondays and Wednesdays, Mondays are usually designated to watch the movies that they discuss on Wednesdays. However, two weeks this quarter, due to the national holidays that fall on Mondays, Gans’ 40 students will have to individually watch the one copy of the movie held at reserve in the Media Lab.

“If we want students to write a paper on the film over the weekend, it’s more convenient for the student to rewatch the movie online over the weekend. (The ban) makes teaching cinema more difficult (because) Video Furnace was extremely useful,” Gans said. “I very much hope (the university) will reach some kind of agreement.”

The ban has undoubtedly affected students financially as well. John Nguyen, a fourth-year political science student, had to buy eight DVDs as part of a requirement for his Politics, Theory and Film class.

“There are two ways to look at it. Most of these films are really good films that you want to have in your collection, but, at the same time, it’s very uneconomical,” he said.

According to Nguyen, who estimates his DVD purchases cost more than $100, the online streaming ban has also taken away from the course. Because one of the movies was only available on VHS, his professor, Joshua Dienstag, had to change the film.

Recognizing the financial burden that the price of eight DVDs would have on his students, Dienstag did not require a course reader.

“I think it’s too bad for the students, … (but) with just one physical copy at the reserve for all my students, it’s not possible,” he said.

Although the university is uncertain as to how long this suspension of video Web access will last, it is working to reinstate such video posting.

“The university is trying to resolve this problem as soon as possible, because it recognizes that the burden falls mostly on students and instructors,” Hampton said.

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Parisa Mahdad
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