CISC 367: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age

Spring 2010
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:00 - 6:15 p.m.
Meeting Location: 205 Kirkbride Hall (for now)
Instructor: Richard Gordon (richard [at] udel [dot] edu) or 831-1717
Office Hours: Wednesdays, noon - 1:00 p.m. (In eating area of Trabant Scrounge)
Course Syllabus

Catalog Description

Students will learn about economic, philosophical, social, and technical approaches to intellectual property (1500 BCE to present) then will research contemporary IP issues in software, entertainment, the Internet, and biotechnology. Not a technical elective for CISC, CPEG, or ELEG majors.

Prerequisites and Credit

  • Junior or Senior standing is a prerequisite.
  • The course counts as a free elective for Computer and Information Sciences, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Engineering majors, not as a technical elective. (Note: You may be able to negotiate with your advisor to have this course "count" for something other than a free elective. Some students from engineering report that they are being allowed to count the class as a free technical elective.)
  • The course does not count as a "second writing requirement."
  • According to the Individual Honors Contract information provided by UD's Honors College, under most circumstances, honors students can negotiate an individal honors contract for this course.

"Real" Description

This is an experimental course being offered for the third time. Over the first two weeks of the course, we will discuss how best to focus our attention to match the students' interest areas. We will spend some time on historical precedents and basic terminology. It's important to note that people have been concerned about what we now call Intellectual Property for thousands of years.

By studying some history and basic concepts, students should be better prepared to explore the relationships between developments in

  • information processing and information technology,
  • scientific discovery,
  • economic forces, and
  • intellectual property laws and customs.
We will also examine contemporary topics such as
  • digital rights management;
  • the Digital Millennium Copyright Act;
  • Open Source software, Creative Commons, and other "alternative" methods of managing intellectual property;
  • economic globalization;
  • the patenting of genomes;
  • fair use in the digital environment;
  • outsourcing's effects on intellectual property;
  • domain name "squatting"; and
  • other current issues.

We will discuss copyrights, patents, trade secrecy, and trademarks. However, unless student interests dictate otherwise, we will spend most of our time on issues pertaining to copyrights.

Reading List

Student Work

Last year's students in CISC367 suggested I use daily work as I do in CISC355 to keep students up to date with the reading assignments. Daily work assignments are designed so that you can prove that you are prepared for class discussion. Do the reading, complete the short assignment, in-class activity, or quiz, and you'll have a big boost to your grade.

Daily work is also a fairer way of dealing with class participation. Class participation grades are, necessarily, subjective and discriminate against the shy and the non-native speakers of English. Daily assignments allow you to prove you're prepared for class discussion, even if you choose to participate in general discussion by being an active listener.

This class will be run as a seminar. What does that mean? It means that the instructor and your classmates will all rely on you staying caught up with the work. Some readings will be assigned to all students; some readings will be assigned to small groups of students who will be responsible for summarizing what they read and working what they read into the general discussion; there may also be some "go find out and report back to us" readings. The point is, in a seminar, you are responsible for being a mature student--not just responsible for your own learning, but also responsible to help your classmates learn.

  • This year, we'll have a midterm to be sure we've all mastered the basics before we turn our undivided attention to current topics and research. (The midterm may be in 1 part or 2. We'll see.)
  • Students will have one major research project that will be due during finals week. In past semesters, we've tried some "alternative" formats and most have "bombed." Therefore, unless you can make a compelling case to me, your final project will include an 8-10 page report (if done solo) or a 15-20 page report (if done in collaboration with someone else). The final project will ask students to define a current problem in IP law or policy and either suggest steps toward a solution or provide an analysis of the problem's causes.
  • Students will be required to submit several short assignments (e.g., a precis of a portion of their reading), submit "benchmark" assignments for their research project, participate in on-line discussion, collaborate with other students on tracking a current event issue, and participate during in-class activities.
  • The most up-to-date grade weightings are listed in Sakai@UD in the class gradebook. As of February 6, 2010, those weightings are as follows:
    • Current Events: 25%
    • Daily Work: 30%
    • Midterm(s): 20%
    • Research Project: 25%

Details of the required student work will be negotiated during the week of February 8.

Course Syllabus

Last Updated: February 16, 2010