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There has been considerable discussion in academic circles about the possibility of moving toward open educational materials—those which may be shared, copied and altered freely, without permission or fee. Legal education is particularly ripe for such a transition, as many of the source materials—including federal statutes and cases—are in the public domain. In this article, we discuss our experience producing an open casebook and statutory supplement on Intellectual Property Law, and answer many of the frequently asked questions about the project. Obviously, open coursebooks are less expensive and more convenient for students. But we found that they also offer pedagogical benefits for professors, who can readily preview, adapt, customize, and update the materials according to their varied needs. We also discuss the potential of current print-on-demand technology—readers can enjoy both free digital versions and low-cost hard copies. Finally, we review the evidence that, for authors, making educational materials “open” is not necessarily incompatible with a profit motive. After exploring both the benefits and limitations of open educational materials, we conclude that, on balance, open publishing models have the potential to markedly improve legal education—both through substitution and through competition—particularly as the conventional publishing model becomes increasingly outdated, rigid, and overpriced.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Open access publishing, Public domain (Copyright law), Casebooks