On April 13 the College adopted a new intellectual property policy that provides a legal framework for resolving ownership and intellectual property rights issues with work produced by students and professors.
After the College’s administration was made aware of the fact that there were no existing written intellectual property rules at the College, it formed a committee of administrators and faculty in February to draft a policy that could solve this issue. After taking comments from faculty, the committee presented a revised copy of the policy and moved to make it a part of the faculty handbook.
Faculty members voted to adopt the committee’s intellectual property policy, along with an amendment proposed by Professor of Comparative and Japanese Literature Christopher Bolton that clarified what course materials produced by professors could be used by the College.
“I feel faculty should have more control over where and how their instructional materials are distributed,” Bolton said.
According to the committee, the new rules are meant to protect the intellectual property rights of faculty, staff, students and the College itself. The newly approved policy applies to anyone using College resources in the course of developing or producing work, including faculty, staff, undergraduates and the school’s few graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
The policy states that the College cannot claim rights to scholarly work (such as papers, research, software, art, textbooks, lecture notes, etc.) created by students and faculty, and specifies that scholarly work is owned exclusively by its creator, with several exceptions. The policy specifies that determination of whether exceptions apply will be made by the Provost.
In cases where work is directly relevant to the College and its identity – such as work produced by students for the Office of Admission or fundraising brochures created by faculty – the College is allowed to claim sole ownership of the rights to that work.
In addition, cases where work produced by students and faculty is directly related to the functioning of the College, such as departmental reports produced by faculty or documents written by student employees on behalf of the College, the rights to the work generally do not remain with the creator.
The provision most relevant to students is the one which states that the College may have partial ownership of rights to any work produced through the “exceptional” use of its resources. However, the term “exceptional” is narrowly defined. The use of library computers, standard labs and other readily available resources are not considered “exceptional,” nor is the use of funding that would normally be granted to students for research projects.
“Individual faculty remain free to share additional materials with colleagues or with anyone they choose–I share some of my own work in this way. But I think that choice should rest with individual faculty,” said Bolton.
For those who are unsure of the new intellectual property policy’s reach or afraid that it delegates too much authority to a small group of people, there are clear provisions to allow students and faculty to work within requirements, as well as prevent the administration from being the sole voice of authority on intellectual property issues. In any situation where intellectual property issues might arise, students and faculty are required to report potential conflicts early in order to resolve them as soon as possible and allow decisions by the Provost to be appealed if necessary.