Washington Law Review


Copyrights in Faculty-Created Works: How Licensing Can Solve the Academic Work-For-Hire Dilemma

December 01, 2013 | 88 Wash. L. Rev. 1465

Many copyrightable works of university faculty members may be works-for- hire as defined under current U.S. copyright laws. Copyrights in works-for-hire are treated differently than copyrights in other works with respect to ownership, duration, termination rights, and requirements for transfer. Ambiguity over whether a specific faculty-created work is a work-for-hire creates legal uncertainties and potential future litigation about the initial ownership of the copyright, length of the copyright term, and termination rights which could impact all future transfers and licensing. Many universities have attempted to define ownership of faculty-created works through university policies. These policies are ineffective to alter the presumption of university ownership of works-for-hire, as they do not meet the requirements of U.S. copyright laws for a transfer of such ownership. This Comment argues that the best way to resolve these ambiguities is for the university to retain ownership of the copyrights in faculty-created works and provide the faculty creator with a license to the copyrighted work. Although perhaps counterintuitive, this Comment suggests that a licensing approach would actually result in greater certainty and better protection of the interests of both the faculty member and the university.

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