Who’s feedback is it anyway?

Previously I’ve promoted the use of audio and video feedback on student work. Methods I’ve highlighted include creating audio and video files using a wide range of software tools and distribution methods. (At this point I would normally direct you to my Student Audio Feedback: What, why and how post but recently rediscovered ALT-C 2009 II: Audio and screen visual feedback to support student learning (and research methodologies), which is pretty good)

Recently a member of staff from one of our supported institutions interested in the use of this form of feedback contacted me with concerns over students reposting personal feedback in the public domain i.e. just as a tutor respects a student’s privacy in not publishing a student work without permission, shouldn’t students do the same. In particular they were wondering if any student declaration was needed to prevent this from happening.

My initial response was along the lines of that any feedback produced by the tutor would remain the intellectual property of the institution and any public reposting would automatically need the consent of the institution, therefore all the tutor needs to do is highlight the existing legal position rather than having students make any extra declarations. But as I wasn’t completely sure of my interpretation of IPR I put a query with JISC Legal and here was the response I got (Disclaimer: The following text is provided as information only and does not constitute formal legal advice):

The recording of the feedback given by the lecturer will either belong to the lecturer or the institution.  S.11(2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that the employer will be the first owner of copyright, unless there has been an agreement otherwise.  It could be that there is sufficient ‘dramatic’ content in giving the feedback too that there is a performer’s right in the recording too, which would stay with the academic, unless there is agreement to transfer those to the institution.

In any case, the student would need to get permission before doing any of the copyright-restricted acts, which would include copying the work, adapting it, and communicating it to the public by internet dissemination in this particular case.  It may be worth reminding the students of this, and I’d suggest including an explanation that the feedback is personal and given within the teaching relationship, and so dissemination of the work would be disrespectful as well as copyright infringement.  Beyond the legal issue, it might also be worthwhile addressing the underlying reasons why the student or students might want to share the feedback – is there a need for more generic feedback that can be shared more widely?

So generally speaking my guidance was along the right lines, but the information from JISC Legal not only identifies particular nuances of the legal implications but also highlights how the risk of getting into problems can be mitigated and addressing some of the fundamental pedagogy. I hard to see how advice like this could get any better.

This isn’t the first time JISC Legal have provided some first-rate guidance and if you haven’t checked out their service it’s well worth an explore. Before you think this level of support is only available to other JISC Advance and JISC related staff it’s not. JISC Legal endeavour to support anyone in the UK tertiary education sector “to ensure that legal issues do not become a barrier to the adoption and use of new information and communications technologies”.

As well as individual guidance JISC Legal have a wealth of support material. Recent goodies include:

JISC Legal = pure quality btw

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