[Cc-uk] Academics are not free either...

Hector MacQueen hector.macqueen at ed.ac.uk
Fri Apr 29 04:05:11 EDT 2005

I think the position sketched by Jonathan is generally true, although I
would be very interested to learn of any HE institutions which claim
copyright in their employees' work.  The general UK understanding for a
long time rested on a case called Stevenson Jordan & Harrison v
Macdonald & Evans [1952] 69 RPC 10, which was taken to say that academic
employees could not be required to write and publish under their
contracts, so that if they did happen to do so it was NOT in the course
of their employment and so the employment provision of the copyright
legislation did not apply.  As RAE began to bite in the 1980s, and
contracts changed their content, the general understanding began to look
a bit wobbly; but the Stevenson case has never been further tested in
court, so far as I know.  

The limited research I have carried out on this subject over the years
suggests that the copyright work which interests universities is that on
software, databases and educational material, especially in association
with electronic and distance learning; and contracts of employment and
IP policies tend to lay claim to that sort of stuff but exclude books,
articles etc.  

The most recent further dimension, which is very interesting from a CC
point of view, is that universities, responding to the high costs of
academic books and journals, are increasingly interested in creating
institutional repositories of their staff's work, in pursuit of "open
access" policies.  In order to do that, academics need to be careful not
to assign their copyrights to publishers, but to retain them and then
license both their publisher and their employer to carry out the acts of
reproduction and publication needed for each to perform its function in
the dissemination and preservation of material to users.  A possible
role for CC licences here, especially with regard to licensing your
employer in an education and research context.  But as a matter of law
it depends on the authority of the Stevenson case. 



Hector L MacQueen
Professor of Private Law 
Director, AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and
Technology Law
University of Edinburgh
Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh EH8 9YL
Tel (UK)-(0)131-650-2060
Fax (UK)-(0)131-650-6317
Email: hector.macqueen at ed.ac.uk
Web: http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/ 
Distance Learning at the AHRC Centre 

-----Original Message-----
From: cc-uk-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:cc-uk-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Bernard Hurley
Sent: 29 April 2005 05:37
To: Jonathan Mitchell
Cc: Creative Commons UK
Subject: Re: [Cc-uk] Academics are not free either...

Jonathan Mitchell wrote:
> David Berry wrote: "Academics *technically* do not own
> the copyright to their own work as they are designated as employee's 
> of the University, as I am sure you are all well aware, therefore the 
> employer owns their intellectual property . " Christian Ahlert wrote: 
> "almost all universities, I am aware of, have chosen to put into their

> employment contracts that they own their employees intellectual work".
> I am not an academic, but I question whether this corresponds to 
> general UK practice, or whether UK universities generally claim these 
> rights.
> For example, these are the first six UK university results I found on 
> googling 'academic copyright university contract "intellectual 
> property"' :
> 1. Liverpool : "the University does not intend to assert ownership of 
> copyright in books, articles, lectures and artistic works, other than 
> those specifically commissioned by the University".
> Is there an AUT position on this?
I have no idea if the AUT has a position on this. However I was involved
about seven or eight years ago  as a NATFHE rep. in contract
negotiations with West Herts College (a large FE college). I can't
remember the exact wording but their position on copyright was more or
less the same as Liverpool University's position. At the time I was lead
to believe that this was more or less "standard" in the academic world.


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