Who owns what in a copyright work?
Copyright arises automatically, and the author or creator of a work is usually the first copyright owner. However, ownership can be transferred (known assignment, or assignation in Scotland). The copyright owner may grant permission for the use of the copyright material subject to certain conditions.
Much of the copying which takes place in the FE and HE sector is with the permission of the copyright owner, usually by means of a 'licence'. Read more in the section on licences.
The first owner of copyright in a work is usually the person who created the work. Joint ownership may arise where more than one author is involved in creating a work.
Computer generated works
In the case of computer generated works, the creator is the person by whom the arrangement necessary for the creation of the work is undertaken.
Under s.11(2) of the CPDA, the basic legal position is that copyright of works created during the course of employment will be owned by the employer unless an agreement to the contrary is in place.
Within FE and HE
The beneficiaries of copyright ownership in FE and HE can be its staff (lecturing, research, general), outside contractors or students as well as the institution itself. Research data, teaching materials, lecture notes may all be works which attract copyright protection.
Copyright ownership of works created by college and university staff is principally dependent on whether the creation of the work was done to meet the employee’s contract of employment. The rule applies irrespective of whether the person used the employer’s resources to produce the work and whether the work was produced during working hours.
This issue is important within FE and HE. Many academics produce content in the form of articles and other publications. In some cases, their primary job specification may only relate to teaching or lecturing, without mention of the production of teaching and learning materials.
Some colleges and universities choose to waive their copyright in all or some teaching and learning materials, and use such works under licence from the academic instead. This might be done to encourage creation of such materials, and to recognise the person-linked nature of them.
Further, one of the common requirements currently included in the contract of employment for HE academic staff is to raise the research profile through publications in journals. In terms of ownership of research, it should be noted that some publications require assignment of copyright to the publication.
In the case of collaborative research partnership between FE and HE institutions and an outside partner, prior agreement should reached as to ownership of copyright and other IPR. This may provide for joint ownership.
The student will usually be the first owner of the intellectual property rights in his or her work. However there may be circumstances where the institution will wish to assert or obtain ownership, or acquire a licence to use the materials. Read more about the significance of copyright for students.
In summary, work created by staff members as part of their employment copyright will belong to the employer institution unless there is a specific agreement otherwise. Students on the other hand will be the owners of copyright in work they create, unless a valid, fair agreement provides otherwise.
Ownership of copyright works is explained further on the IPO website.