It was long, long ago in a land far away. It was California in the 1990s—a peaceful time. Boots were in fashion, and Ace Ventura seemed funny. Silicon Valley was a housing development, email was on a green screen, and a wonderful splash of color hit our computers with the magic of “Mosaic.” Seemingly few of us were thinking much about copyright way back then, but the growth of the tech industry and a few choice court rulings reminded us that copyright and fair use had some application to our work at the university. At least one enormous university system—California State University, with about two dozen campuses—set out to address the copyright issues affecting education and research.
Cal State soon expanded the effort and teamed with the State University of New York and the City University of New York to share expertise on issues of common concern. The project was titled “Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems,” but was best known as “CETUS.” Faculty members, administrators, and librarians from the three universities met regularly over a period of about three years. A major outcome was the completion of four publications:
Fair Use of Copyrighted Works: A Crucial Element in Educating America. Seal Beach, CA: Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems, 1995, 34 pp.
Ownership of New Works at the University: Unbundling of Rights and the Pursuit of Higher Learning. Seal Beach, CA: Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems,
1997, 32 pp.
Information Resources and Library Services for Distance Learners: A Framework for Quality. Seal Beach, CA: Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems,
1997, 44 pp.
The Academic Library in the Information Age: Changing Roles. Seal Beach, CA: Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems, 1997, 18 pp.
I was a professor at a Cal State campus when the project started. I was part of the original planning and had the pleasure of continuing as a consultant to CETUS after moving to Indiana University. I contributed much of the legal analysis in these publications about copyright, fair use, and distance learning. The CETUS materials were distributed widely and posted on a dedicated website. They filled a clear demand for helpful information about copyright and information policy, and the publications were frequently included on reading lists at many colleges and universities throughout the country.
It seems hard to believe in retrospect, but we were giving the university community new ways to think about fair use and copyright ownership. We pushed an understanding of fair use based on the statutory factors, rather than “guidelines.” We addressed distance education issues before Congress took up the matter and enacted the TEACH Act. I am most pleased with the creative way we proposed “unbundling” and sharing rights, rather than claiming copyright ownership as a monolith. We were striving to encourage sharing of rights long before open access. The copyright notice on the publications themselves was a public grant of rights well before Creative Commons more clearly defined the concepts. We were doing our best to encourage new ways to think about copyright in higher education. These four publications may now look a tad like historical artifacts (especially the pictures), but they were one of the earliest resources for understanding copyright in higher education, and they frame some issues in a way that is worthy of fresh consideration today.
The original CETUS website closed years ago. Courtesy of Academic Commons, the digital repository at Columbia University, I am happy to help make these four items available once again. I hope you find them interesting and maybe even helpful. Thanks.
When making use of this page under the terms of the CC license, please include this form of attribution: "Used under a Creative Commons BY-ND license from Kenneth D. Crews." If your needs for the material are outside the scope of the license, please consider fair use or simply asking for permission.