Self-archiving, academic staff, universities & intellectual property

From: Richard Poynder <rich_p_at_DIAL.PIPEX.COM>
Date: Sat, 22 Jun 2002 16:53:27 +0100


I have a question. I hope it is sufficiently relevant to this list. If
not, perhaps someone could point me in the direction of a more
appropriate list.

If I am right in thinking that the increasing interest in self-archiving
amongst researchers, universities and academic staff is leading to a
greater appreciation of - amongst other things - intellectual property
issues and the potential monetary value of IP (if only as a result of
the realisation that commercial publishers have done very well out of it
thank you very much), then is there not perhaps a danger that
universities and other research institutes might seek to monetise the IP
of their employees in the manner that commercial publishers have done,
and a situation develop in which academic staff find that having freed
their research from the financial firewall created by publishers, that
their employers seek to create a whole new financial firewall, by moving
to lock up the newly created institutional archives and attempt to turn
them into revenue streams for the institution?

After all, universities are increasingly being asked to behave more like
commercial enterprises, and to seek funds not only from businesses, but
by monetising the IP created by their own staff/ spinning out companies
based on research done within the institution etc. I suspect that today
this is mainly a patent issue, but I found a web site set up by a UK
university the other day that has a whole section on IP, with the
statement that the university was moving to "assert it's right to
ownership of IP generated by employees where this is permitted by law".
There then followed an extract from the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act
1988; Section 11 stating: "Where a literary work [includes computer
programs, dramatic, musical or artistic work] is made by an employee in
the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any
copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary."

As financial pressure increases, and the commercial spirit within
universities intensifies, might not some universities want to suggest
that the copyright in refereed papers/journal articles also belongs to
them, and attempt to monetise that ownership? Or is this a misreading of
the employer/employee relationship of academic staff and their
institution, and the true ownership of the copyright in journal articles
written by academic staff/ institutional researchers?

I'd appreciate any responses/ views/ experiences/ explanations as to why
this might or might not be a realistic scenario.

Best wishes,

Richard Poynder

Richard Poynder
Freelance Journalist
Phone: + 44 (0)191-386-0072
Mobile: 0793-202-4032
Received on Sat Jun 22 2002 - 16:53:27 BST

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