Copyright: Within higher education, it has been the prevailing academic practice to treat the faculty member as the copyright owner of works that are created independently and at the faculty member’s own initiative for traditional academic purposes. Examples include, but are not limited to, class notes and syllabi, books and articles, works of fiction and nonfiction, poems and dramatic works, musical and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, computer programs, computer-generated works, and educational software (commonly known as “courseware”). This practice has been followed for the most part, regardless of the physical medium in which these “traditional academic works” appear, that is, whether on paper or in audiovisual or electronic form. This practice should also ordinarily apply to the development of courseware for use in programs of distance education. Situations do arise, however, in which the College may fairly claim ownership of, or an interest in, copyright in works created by faculty members. Three general kinds of projects fall into this category: special works created in circumstances that may properly be regarded as “made for hire,” negotiated contractual transfers, and joint works” as described in the Copyright Act.
- Works Made for Hire. Although traditional academic work that is copyrightable – such as lecture notes and courseware, books, and articles – cannot normally be treated as works made for hire, some works created by College faculty members do properly fall within that category, allowing the institution to claim copyright ownership. Works created as a specific requirement of employment or as an assigned institutional duty that may, for example, be included in a written job description or an employment agreement, may be fairly deemed works made for hire. Even absent such prior written specification, ownership will vest with the college or university in those cases in which it provides the specific authorization or supervision for the preparation of the work. Examples are reports prepared by a member of the Office of Academic Affairs or by the chair or members of a faculty committee, or college promotional brochures prepared by a director of admissions. The Copyright Act also defines as a “work made for hire” certain works that are commissioned from one who is not an employee but an “independent contractor.” The institution will own the copyright in such a commissioned work when the author is not a College employee, or when the author is such a faculty member but the work to be created falls outside the normal scope of that person’s employment duties (such as a professor of art history commissioned by the institution under special contract to write a catalog for a campus art gallery). In such situations, for the work-made-for-hire doctrine to apply there must be a written agreement so stating and signed by both parties; the work must also fall within a limited number of statutory categories, which include instructional texts, examinations, and contributions to a collective work.
- Contractual Transfers. In situations in which the copyright ownership is held by the faculty member, it is possible for the individual to transfer the entire copyright, or a more limited license, to the College or to a third party. As already noted, under the Copyright Act, a transfer of all of the copyright or of an exclusive right must be reflected in a signed document in order to be valid. When, for example, a work is prepared pursuant to a program of “sponsored research” accompanied by a monetary grant from a third party, a contract signed by the faculty member providing that copyright will be owned by the College will be enforceable. Similarly, the College may reasonably request that the faculty member – when entering into an agreement granting the copyright or publishing rights to a third party – make efforts to reserve to the institution the right to use the work in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, nonexclusive basis.
- Joint Works. Under certain circumstances, two or more persons may share copyright ownership of a work, notably when it is a “joint work.” The most familiar example of a joint work is a book or article written, fully collaboratively, by two academic colleagues. Each is said to be a “co-owner” of the copyright, with each having all the usual rights of the copyright owner provided that any income from such uses is shared with the other. In rare situations it may be proper to treat a work as a product of the joint authorship of the faculty member and the College, so that both have a shared interest in the copyright. Whoever owns the copyright, the College may reasonably require reimbursement for any unusual financial or technical support. (“Unusual financial or technical support” is defined as follows: Extensive un-reimbursed use of major College laboratory, studio, or computational facilities, or human resources. The use of these facilities must be important to the creation of the intellectual property; merely incidental use of a facility does not constitute substantial use, or does extensive use of a facility commonly available to all faculty or professional staff (such as libraries and offices), nor does extensive use of a specialized facility for routine tasks. Use will be considered “unusual” and facilities will be considered “major” if similar use facilities would cost the creator more than $5,000 (five thousand dollars) in constant 1984 dollars if purchased or leased in the public marketplace. Creators wishing to reimburse the College for the use of its facilities must make arrangements to do so before the level of facilities usage for a particular intellectual property becomes substantial as defined.) That reimbursement might take the form of future royalties or a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to use the work for internal educational and administrative purposes. This means that the course developer and the College must reach an understanding about the conditions of portability and commercialization of faculty work developed using substantial College resources. Ordinarily, such an understanding will be recorded in a written agreement between the course developer and the College on a course-by-course basis.