Intellectual Property and USAO

I spent yesterday visiting the University of Oklahoma main campus for the annual conference on legal issues. While there, I had an opportunity to refresh my understanding of a few issues I confront in the institutional research trenches. I attended a session on FERPA issues, some basic issues surrounding intellectual property, as well as some developments on immigration law as it impacts admissions.

Troutt Viewbook

Among the revelations that struck me the most was learning how other institutions approach intellectual property. So far as I could tell, many people attending that session were under the impressions that their institutions hold some claim over faculty and staff intellectual property. Of course this impression was the result of a show of hands, so it might not be at all indicative of actual policy. In any event, this struck me as a significant contrast from the way USAO handles this same issue. Here’s an excerpt from our employee handbook (4.14):

C. Copyrighted works produced by University personnel, except as noted in the paragraph E. of this section, are the property of the creator. All rights afforded copyright owners under Section 196 of the Act reside with the creator unless he or she has assigned or licensed any of the rights. Decisions relative to registering works with the copyright office are left to the individual creator.

D. Works specifically commissioned by the University under Section 201(b) of the Act belong to the University. As copyright owner, the University makes decisions relative to registering commissioned works. Royalties for University-commissioned copyrighted works may be shared by the University and the creator(s) of the work subject to the discretion of the University. Disputes arising over royalty sharing shall be referred to the University Research Committee, which will in turn recommend to the President.

E. All noncommissioned copyrightable material, developed with the significant use of funds, facilities, or equipment, administered by the University, become the property of the University. However, the University recognizes and reaffirms the traditional academic freedom of its faculty, staff, and students to publish freely without restriction. In keeping with this philosophy, the University does not construe the provision of office or library facilities as constituting significant use of University facilities, nor does it construe the payment of salary as constituting significant use of University funds, except for those situations where the funds, facilities or equipment specifically support development of such material.

So far as I can tell, and keep in mind that I am not a lawyer or even an H.R. person, this means that all work done by USAO faculty and staff remains their intellectual property. The exception to this is when USAO specifically commissions a copyrightable work. I think of this as one of the additional perks of working at this wonderful school.

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