“… Universities are meant to pass the torch of civilization,” Abelson said.
“Giving it away helps defuse complex intellectual property issues of ownership and control that can distract the universities from their missions to disseminate knowledge,” he added.
It’s not all altruism, however, Abelson said.
“MIT does this in part to keep a seat at the table in decisions about the disposition of knowledge in the information age,” he said.
Other universities have the exact opposite attitude. In 2002, the University of Southern California president issued a letter that stated USC exists to promote and foster the creation of intellectual property.
The University of Chicago decreed in 1999 that it owns all of its intellectual property.
The University of Texas at Austin perhaps has the most extreme view. UT-Austin’s top lawyer decided a few years ago to notify all students that their class notes are derivatives of their professors’ intellectual property and are to be used only for personal purposes, not to be shared with anyone else.
With disparaties in potential approaches like these, it’s easy to understand why some instructors are allowing unaddressed IP concerns to prevent them from sharing their work, especially in places where an IP philosophy which accounts for digital works has not been articulated.