Colleagues alerted me to the fact that you have two questions for me. I'm happy to answer. Thank you for your generous comments about my teaching.
I'll start by pointing out that outrageous, especially in italics, was not my choice of word; it's yours.
To be clear about what I was objecting to, it was people asking me to be an instructor and then telling me I shouldn't feel any particular obligation to instruct. When I'm an instructor, I instruct. Go figure.
As my only way to connect with students in the MOOC setting is through the forum, I made a conscious decision to be present on the forum every day, and people liked the course. That's association, not causation. And you're right that my contact with tens of thousands of people must necessarily be limited to those who read or post to the discussion forums or read my course updates.
So how much do I matter, you ask. Well, that question has occurred to others including me, as you can probably imagine, and my colleagues and I are studying it as statisticians should: with a randomized controlled experiment, as I said at MSRI. Hang in there and we'll actually have some data to talk about.
It's worth noting that MOOC students get the same number of hours of me in lecture as do my campus students, but they get more hours of me outside lecture. On campus, many faculty hold two or three office hours a week regardless of the size of their class, and connect only with those who show up. My half an hour to an hour a day for the MOOC is not only more hours per week, it's also archived: every one of the 28,500 students can listen in on all my conversations with other students. I can't help thinking that many of my on-campus students might consider this a better value proposition than what they get.
I'm actually not guarding against my MOOC being "replayed forever". I've been saying for a year that I'd like the course to be open all the time. It's an introduction to a much-maligned and poorly understood field, which is one of the main reasons I created it.
And in fact it's been replayed ever since it went online: it's archived and freely available to anyone who cares to register. They just have to go to "Past Courses" in EdX and there it is. They'll get the course materials for all 15 weeks. What they won't get is an instructor.
That's what I'm guarding against: the conflation of instruction and the provision of course materials. The two are not the same.
So I've asked simply to be called the author rather than instructor of my MOOC, unless I'm actually instructing. This was a novel thought, apparently, but it's been well received. One of the next iterations of Stat 2X will likely be used to develop some "best practices" for how to hand off a MOOC to an instructor who's not the author. I expect the MOOC world will have authors of course materials and instructors of courses as routinely as traditional courses do.
Which brings me to your other question, about how authors or creators of MOOCs can protect their rights. This is not so different from the same question about authors of textbooks, say. You choose your publisher and your contract carefully; if you don't, you might have trouble, as their lawyers are almost always bigger than your lawyers. But we've been playing this game for a long, long time. Nothing much is new here.
I don't actually have a contract with EdX. EdX has agreements with BerkeleyX, and BerkeleyX has agreements with ... etc. It's been hair-raising occasionally, as anything involving such agreements tends to be, but by and large people have been great. I think it helps that the Director of EdX is a faculty member and himself a great teacher who created a terrific MOOC.
Those were your two questions, and now you have my answers, imperfect as they are. The questions were thoughtful; thank you for asking.
In closing, I have to tell you about one moment of hilarity for me, reading your post; I don't know if you intended it. It's when you said people like me "loved MOOCs because MOOCs were working for them." How I wish I had known that when I was up till 3:30 a.m. for eight months, creating a course and video text book in real time, after my day job, for free. I'd have felt so much better.
MOOCs have sparked conversations about teaching, and will motivate faculty to re-assess how they teach, whether in traditional courses or OCs (I just made that up: MOOC - MO = OC, becoming more common on campus) or MOOCs. That is good for everyone in the profession. But at the moment they're mostly a labor of love, with many creative and adventurous people donating their time to explore this new world. That isn't sustainable. And once money starts getting into the act, I expect it's going to feel a lot like the old world ... I wouldn't start ordering wreaths for math research just yet.