Here’s a new twist on IP from Inside Higher Ed :: University as Author? (via TechRhet). The IP debate has been going on for quite a while, and it really heats up when it deals with who owns distance ed course materials: individual author or university? But the debate looks like it’s making another turn, just in time for the academic new year.
The Kansas Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Kansas Board of Regents has to negotiate its intellectual property policy in the future, or whether it can simply hand down a decree – even one that asserts ownership of all faculty work.
If the court upholds the decision of a lower court, public institutions in Kansas will have the right to claim ownership of any faculty work, including books. In the current policy, faculty members keep their book rights, and revenue sharing is built in for technology copyrights, but, “if [the board] can unilaterally enact a policy, then tomorrow they could turn around and say ‘we own it, we get all the royalties,’” said John Mazurek, a lawyer representing the Kansas National Education Association.
Here’s the interesting twist:
In making the decision, the court treated faculty work as “work for hire,” under federal copyright law. Much the way Microsoft owns computer codes written by its employees, the court classified scholarly work as within the scope of employment of a faculty member, and thus granted ownership to the institution.
It’s not just book rights, code, and patents. If the law were applied in Minnesota, it might mean that MnSCU Board of Regents would own my curricular materials, my notes, lectures – and might be free to re-work and re-purpose them at will.
I couldn’t possibly comment.
But I am listening to 107.8 Radio Jackie – The Sound of South West London.