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Works created at UC

In higher education, copyright ownership is typically addressed through institutional policy or written agreements. It is an academic tradition that faculty own the copyright to the scholarly works that they produce. The University of California’s policies on Copyright Ownership and Ownership of Course Materials clarify who owns the copyright to original works created at UC and how the rights of ownership are allocated between the authors and the University.

According to UC’s policy, ownership of copyrights to scholarly and aesthetic works generally reside with the academic author, with certain exceptions. If, for example, the work is sponsored or contracted, or is part of a project that has special provisions on copyright ownership, then copyright ownership is generally retained by the university.

University staff who create works within the scope of their employment generally do not own the copyright to the work. A work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment is considered a “work made for hire.”  When a work qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered its author. Under UC policies, some written works created by certain categories of UC faculty, graduate students, and staff are considered works made for hire.

The following chart shows copyright ownership status distinctions based on UC Copyright Policies:

Copyright retained by originator/author:

  • Scholarly/aesthetic works created by academic authors using independent academic effort.
  • Course materials (other than Course Approval Documents).
  • Personal works prepared outside scope of employment.
  • Student works.

Copyright normally retained by University:

  • Institutional works created by UC employees within the scope of their employment.
  • UC sponsored works.
  • UC commissioned works.
  • Works acquired by assignment or will.

Copyright normally governed by written agreements:

  • Course materials created with use of Exceptional University Resources.
  • Personal works outside scope of job created with use of university facilities.
  • UC sponsored works.
  • UC commissioned works.
  • Contracted facilities works.
  • Special University Projects.

Nonexclusive license retained by University to use works for education and research:

  • UC sponsored works not owned by university.
  • UC commissioned works not owned by university.
  • Course approval documents created by designated instructional appointee.

Managing your copyrights

As of October 23, 2015, all UC employees are covered by one of the UC open access policies, which reserve rights for UC faculty and employees to make their articles freely available to the public in an open access repository. They do this by automatically granting a non-exclusive copyright license to the University prior to any later agreements authors may make with publishers. UC retains those rights regardless of what rights authors may subsequently transfer to publishers. The OA policies don’t say where UC authors should publish or require them to pay open access fees to publishers in order to comply.

Authors who opt-out of the policy (via waiver) for a particular article may still wish to include language in their publication agreements that reserve rights to use their own works for their teaching and research at UC, for posting on their own web site, for retaining rights to all pre-publication drafts, or granting others permission to use the work for nonprofit educational purposes.

To find out more about managing your copyrights and UC’s open access policies, see the Office of Scholarly Communication website.