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Muhlenberg to offer new copyright law course in collaboration with Harvard Law School


It's not every day that an undergraduate student has the opportunity to take a course offered in collaboration with Harvard Law School. Starting in January, that is precisely the opportunity that will be available to a number of Muhlenberg College students.


Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:58:00 EST

During the spring semester, Kelly Cannon, Trexler Library’s outreach and scholarly communication librarian, will teach Special Topics: CopyrightX for the first time.

The course will blend online resources with campus discussions in a look “under the hood” of copyright, examining U.S. copyright law from theoretical and doctrinal perspectives. Considerable time will be spent on the fairness, personhood and welfare theories of copyright that have shaped and continue to shape U.S. copyright law.

Cannon will teach this course at Muhlenberg in an innovative collaboration with Professor William Fisher, the Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Course content will include roughly 1.5 hours per week of online lectures by Fisher for CopyrightX, a course he teaches at Harvard Law School, readings from selected court cases pertaining to copyright that are also part of the CopyrightX course and a 1.5 hour per week in-person discussion session with Cannon.

“We wanted to take the foundation of what’s being taught at Harvard and make it a Muhlenberg course,” said Cannon. “The way we’ve done that is by adding in-class writing assignments and small group work to develop critical thinking about the law. I wanted to add those elements to make the information even more accessible to our students.”

Cannon is the ideal person to teach the course at Muhlenberg College, as he works with issues of copyright in his role at Trexler Library.

The idea to bring CopyrightX to Muhlenberg developed after President John Williams took the online Harvard course and got to know Fisher.

“I got to know Professor Fisher after taking the CopyrightX course myself online in 2013. Professor Fisher is one of the world’s leading authorities in intellectual property law. His pedagogical approach to teaching CopyrightX, both at Harvard Law School and online, is unique in that it employs powerful visualization tools that help to de-mystify the subject matter and stresses seminar-style discussions more typical of liberal arts courses,” said Williams. “When he informed me he wanted to offer the course in collaboration with a liberal arts college, I brought the opportunity to our faculty and they embraced it. I am delighted that Muhlenberg is the first—and currently the only—college in the U.S. offering this course in collaboration with Professor Fisher and Harvard Law School.”

It wasn’t long before the Provost’s Office began working with Cannon, the College’s copyright authority, to design a Muhlenberg version of the course.

Prior to designing the Muhlenberg course, Cannon took the online class and twice sat in on Professor Fisher’s in-person class at Harvard. “Those were great experiences,” he said. “Doing well in the online class and witnessing it in-person got me excited to bring the course to Muhlenberg in some fashion.”

The Muhlenberg offering of CopyrightX is the first time that the course has been adapted by a U.S. institution and the first time it has been aimed at undergraduate students. Previous online offerings have been directed at Harvard students and students at international institutions with an interest in U.S. copyright law.

With the course on the horizon for the upcoming Spring 2017 semester, Cannon says that the students he’s discussed the course with are excited.

“Most of the students who have expressed interest in the course are considering law school,” he said. “Working directly with case law and interacting with the course materials in such a comprehensive way is appealing for students as they prepare to enter the next phase of their lives, whether law school, graduate school or the workforce.”