Yale Fights Plagiarism of Its Open Courses

Recent findings of a university in China selling copies of coursework from free online courses at Yale University is causing understandable complaints from the university. According to an article posted in the Yale Alumni Magazine, while it has been known that students in China have taken Yale’s free online courses, a university has taken it a step too far and published a book based on Open Yale Courses. Shaanxi Normal University published the book on several of Yale’s most popular open courses, including economist Robert Shiller’s "Financial Markets" and philosophy professor Shelly Kagan’s "Death."

The Chinese university did not ask Yale for permission to use information from the video lectures, which are available for free for noncommercial uses. The school also took the material from Chinese translations of the Yale transcripts, which were prepared by a non-profit organization in China. Officials at Yale University believes that a large amount, with estimates around about 95%, of the material was copied by the university in China. While Yale has received various emails about publishing companies hoping to publish translations in an effort to get the material into book form, Shaanxi University has not been one of those. Officials at Yale are delighted about the response to the published materials, but it concerns them that the university flat out used their material without permission.

Under the terms of the course giveaway, others can not profit from the material posted on Open Yale Courses, according to an article posted in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chinese university published five of Yale’s open course material and officials from the school have said that they secured permission to use the material from the author, but not from Yale University. Yale’s general counsel has reached out to the university in China to resolve the matter and officials at the school for the Shaanxi University are investigating the matter.

Yale University caught wind of the matter after an English speaking newspaper published the material and after numerous emails were received about publishing partnerships with the school. While one of the authors says he is flattered that his material is being used and that he has had great interest placed on his video lectures, he supports Yale and their decision to address the piracy. Also because Yale had its own plans for that material, as they are planning their own book series based on the Open Courses. They are working on a pilot program that would publish the transcripts as books available electronically or as paperback. In addition, translating the books into other languages, including Chinese, may also be a part of the publishing program and the project.

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