- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - An advocacy group is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that course outlines used by University of Missouri faculty are not public records.

The National Council on Teacher Quality, based in Washington D.C., argued in a motion filed Wednesday that the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District was incorrect when it ruled that the course syllabi are protected by federal copyright law as intellectual property of faculty members, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1sWTURx ).

The appeals court ruling in August upheld a Boone County court decision that the course outlines are not public records.

The lawsuit filed in Missouri is part of a national effort by the not-for-profit National Council of Teacher Quality to monitor what aspiring teachers learn in college. The group filed a motion in October 2012 asking that the syllabi be released under Missouri’s Open Meetings and Records Law.

It argued in its petition to the state Supreme Court that the appeals court ruling did not acknowledge that federal copyright laws include a fair use exception for “nonprofit educational purposes.”

“We’ve run this up the flagpole with a number of legal minds we think know this area of law well. They’re pretty confident we can prevail,” National Council on Teacher Quality President Kate Walsh said. “At this point, it’s not even a matter of getting the materials - we can get them from students and faculty. At this point, it’s principle. It establishes a terrible precedent.”

The organization hired lawyers in nine states while trying to acquire syllabi for the evaluation project, Walsh said. In six of those states, universities complied with the records requests after receiving letters from lawyers. In Wisconsin, a lawsuit was settled out of court in favor of the council and the organization won in district and appeals courts in Minnesota.

University of Missouri System spokesman John Fougere said the university is pleased with the court rulings so far.

“In responding to the NCTQ’s request for course syllabi, we felt it was important to respect the rights of the faculty members who created the syllabi,” he said in an email. “We are pleased that both courts to review the matter thus far have concluded that we acted lawfully.”


Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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