How does a free law class taught by Harvard faculty sound?

Harvard Law School is accepting applications for its first online course via edX—a new online education venture between six leading universities.

The 12-week copyright course begins on January 28 and will be open to 500 students. Applications for a spot in the free class, taught by William Fisher III, director of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, must be received by January 3.

The course is not a MOOC, or massive open online course, in which hundreds or thousands of students complete an online course largely on their own. Instead, the edX copyright course is intended to mimic a traditional Harvard law class. Students will be broken into smaller sections of no more than 25, and a former or current student of Fisher’s will facilitate discussions among section members in real time. Students will also take a three-hour test, just as regular Harvard law students do.

The bulk of the course will cover copyright law in the United States, according to an announcement, and the remainder will explore such laws in other countries.

“Considerable attention will be devoted to the relationship between copyright law and creative expression in a variety of fields: literature; music; film; photography; graphic art; software; comedy; fashion; and architecture,” according to the course overview.

The class will be delivered in a variety of ways. There will be an 80-minute online seminar each week, as well as pre-recorded lectures and live webcasts of guest speakers addressing hot topics in copyright law. Course materials will be available for free on Fisher’s website. The final exam will be graded by the teaching fellows and those who pass the course will receive certificates of completion.

Those enrolled in the course are expected to devote at least eight hours a week to the class. There are no prerequisites, though participants must be at least 13 years old, proficient in English, and willing to participate in the online discussions. Students from anywhere in the world can participate as long as they have Internet access, though preference will be given to students with the ability to video chat. The law school expects to receive applications from more people than it can accommodate in the course.

The group edX was founded six months ago as a nonprofit by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has since added the University of California, Berkeley; Georgetown University; Wellesley College; and the University of Texas as partners. Its goal is to develop an open-source online learning platform for online education. Thus far, all of the edX courses are free.

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