Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works that are fixed in a tangible form of expression.
In general, copyright gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to do, and authorize others to do, the following: reproduce the work; prepare derivative works; distribute copies to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending; and to perform and display the work publicly.
Copyright cannot protect ideas, procedures, systems, processes, concepts, discoveries or devices (as distinguished from a description, explanation or illustration). Others can freely use the underlying ideas and concepts in a copyrighted work.
A work created on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation, and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus an additional 75 years after the author's death.
Title 17, U.S. Code
Circular 1, Copyright Basics, Copyright Office, Library of Congress
Copyrightable Works....Including Software
Unlike patent protection, copyright protection exists from the time a work is created in fixed form. Neither use of a copyright notice nor registration are requirements for copyright protection in the U.S. Copyright immediately becomes the property of the author. There are situations under the law in which the employer and not the employee is presumptively considered the author/owner.
Works Created Independently:
Ownership of Copyright by Creators
Under University policy, University employees and students own copyright to traditional academic copyrightable works that are created independently and at their own initiative for traditional academic purposes.
Examples of traditional academic copyrightable works include class notes, books, theses and dissertations1, educational software (also known as courseware or lessonware), articles, non-fiction, fiction, poems, musical works, dramatic works including any accompanying music, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, or other works of artistic imagination that are not created as an institutional initiative.
Title 17, Section 101, U.S. Copyright Statute
Circular 1, Copyright Basics, Copyright Office, Library of Congress
See General Rules, Article III, Section 2(b) and Section 4(b)
Theses and Dissertations
Student Theses and Dissertations (both referred to below as “Thesis”) are a subset of traditional academic works, in which the student owns the copyright and which are also subject to the following conditions
1- The University retains a free right to use and distribute a limited number of Thesis copies, together with the right to require its publications for archival use. See the Graduate College policy regarding Thesis deposits.
2- Further, the student’s copyright ownership in the Thesis does not extend to the original records of the investigation for the Thesis (including software, data, and laboratory notebooks), nor to the underlying inventions described in the Thesis. These are the property of the University and are owned by the University. At the discretion of the student's major department, the records may be retained by the student. See the General Rules, Article III, Section 4(c) Student Works.
Works Created Independently Using University Resources:
When The University Has License Rights
Except as noted above for certain Student Works, if a creator develops traditional academic copyrightable works using University resources usually and customarily provided, the creator owns such works and the University has no license rights.
If a creator develops traditional academic copyrightable works but uses University resources over and above those usually and customarily provided, the creator owns such works but must grant a license to the University. The minimum terms give the University the non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use the original work in its internal academic, research and public service programs. The University may retain more than minimum license rights when justified by the circumstances of development.
University resources that are "usually and customarily provided" include facilities freely available to the public (for example, the library), and other incidental support such as office space, salary, or ordinary access to computers and networks. In general, this term does not include use of students or employees as support staff to develop the work. It also does not include substantial use of specialized or unique facilities and equipment, or other special support provided by the University, unless approved as an exception by the Unit Executive Officer(s).2
Works Created at a Faculty Member's Initiative But Using University Support Staff: Joint Ownership
Sometimes a faculty member takes the initiative to develop copyrightable material that would be a traditional academic copyrighted work if created independently by the faculty member. However, the faculty member uses the talents of other support staff (i.e., University employees, including student employees) who also make substantive intellectual contributions to the work.
Such University support staff are performing a "work for hire" for the University, and the University owns the copyright in their work product. (See also following section.)
The end result is that the copyright to the work is jointly owned by the University and the faculty member. Absent mutual agreement otherwise, each co-owner of the jointly owned work is free to exercise all rights of copyright ownership, and can use and authorize others to use the work or make derivative works, subject only to an obligation to account to the other co-owner for any profit. This obligation can be waived by mutual agreement of the joint owners.
See the General Rules, Article III, Section 4(b)(1)
See the General Rules, Article III, Section 4(b)(2)
See the General Rules, Article III, Section 2(d) See the General Rules, Article III, Section 4(a)(2)
Exceptions are often made in units where the tradition is to provide subvention to some faculty in the form of graduate assistants to help prepare traditional academic copyrightable works, or secretarial support to key manuscripts into the computer. Exceptions are also often made in situations where creators use University-provided facilities and resources in the creation of works of artistic imagination, for example, use of studios, pottery wheels, or kilns for the creation of paintings, sculpture or ceramics, use of high end computer hardware and software for creation of artistic graphical images, and so on.
Works Created as "Work for Hire":
Copyright Ownership by the University
The University claims ownership for copyrightable works created by employees as "work for hire" for the institution. This includes:
1- Works created under the terms of an agreement between the University and an external party, such as a grant or contract; and
2- Works created as a specific requirement of employment or as an assigned University duty.
Employment duties may be specified in a written job description or an employment agreement. In the absence of such prior written specification, the University owns works when the University provides the motivation for the preparation of the work and the topic or content is determined by the creator's employment duties, and/or the work is prepared at the University's expense.
In interpreting (2) above, the University's position is that faculty are hired to perform teaching, research and public service, and the creation of copyrightable works for the University is not a specific requirement of employment for faculty. (However, the University does own works created under agreements with external parties, see (1) above.)
A faculty member may voluntarily agree to accept a "work for hire" assignment, or to create a work and assign the copyright to the University, by special agreement. For example, a Unit Executive Officer might ask a faculty member to develop a lab manual or on-line course material that would be owned by the University. The faculty member might be given release time, summer salary, or other compensation in return for creating the work. Such special agreements should be confirmed in writing prior to beginning the work.
Other Situations Where the University Owns Copyright
Copyrighted Works that Are Also Patentable: The University claims ownership of copyrighted works developed by employees, students and others, when the work also qualifies as a University-owned patentable invention. The most common example is certain software developments, where the computer program is automatically protected by copyright upon creation but may also be patentable. Software patents are possible for claims (1) in a machine category, as a combination of hardware and software, (2) as a process, or (3) as an article of manufacture.
"Commissioned Works": There are situations where the University enters into a written agreement for a specially ordered or "commissioned work" with a creator acting as an independent contractor. The University can enter into a commissioned work agreement when (1) the creator is not a University employee, or (2) the creator is a University employee but the work to be performed falls outside the normal scope of the creator's University employment duties. Contracts covering commissioned works should specify that the creator must convey ownership to the University.
For works first published on or after March 31, 1998, use of the copyright notice is optional. However, use of a notice is recommended because it informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication.
University-owned works should be protected by copyright notice, unless the decision is made (with the Unit Executive Officer's approval) to release a work to the public domain.
The required elements of a copyright notice are (1) the symbol © (c in a circle), or the word Copyright, or the abbreviation, Corp; and (2) the year of first publication; and (3) the name of the copyright owner.
Disclosure of Copyrighted Works & Software
Creators should promptly disclose University-owned copyrighted works that have the potential to be brought into practical use for public benefit through licensing, or for which disclosure is required under the terms of a grant or contract.
For University-owned works, the correct copyright notice is:
Copyright 20xx, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
All Rights Reserved.