Copyright for Academics in the Digital Age

Copyright for Academics in the Digital Age

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  1. In the authors’ follow-up Q&A on the Academe blog, they remark on ASU’s own contract language in work-for-hire distance ed courses:

    Question: You mention faculty who create online courses as “works for hire” under specific contracts. What type of language might be a red flag for faculty who wish to create such courses without giving up their ability to use their own lectures, slide presentations, or other teaching materials again in future courses?

    Answer: It makes sense that the university would want to have some additional control over an online course that the institution has paid a faculty member extra money to create. After all, if the faculty member takes a job at another institution, the university would likely wish to assign the course to another instructor. Thus contract language that authorizes the university to re-use the teaching material a faculty member created as a “work-for-hire” is reasonable. But even if the university owns the rights to the material created under a work-for-hire contract, it need not retain exclusive rights or restrict absolutely the faculty/creator’s rights to use such materials in other contexts.

    One of us recently developed an online course as a work for hire, and the contract language illustrates how overly broad such contracts can be. Examples include, “no party other than the University shall have any rights, titles or interests in the Work,” and “Author hereby assigns, grants and delivers, and upon creation of the Work automatically assigns, grants and delivers, without further consideration, exclusively to University, all rights, titles and interests of every kind and nature whatsoever in and to the Work, and all copies, versions, and derivatives thereof. . . .”

    Precisely because a professor might also like to use the course content s/he created in the future—in a textbook or in another course, for example—contract language like this is obviously far too broad, at least if the faculty member ever hopes to use any part of the course she/he created ever again.

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