University Policies
Policy Contact
Executive Director, Brown Technology Innovations Email 401-863-7408

Copyright Ownership and Use Policy

Policy No. Effective Date Last Reviewed
10.20.02

1.0 Policy Purpose

This Policy establishes the principles, and associated rights and responsibilities on ownership of copyright in works created by Members of the Brown University Community. 

2.0 To Whom the Policy Applies

This policy applies to every Member of the Brown Community. The Brown Community is defined as faculty (including instructors and visiting faculty), students (including undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows), staff, and any other individuals using University Resources and facilities while creating or developing copyrightable works. The policy applies to all works of authorship created by Academic Appointees (including instructors and visiting faculty), students (including undergraduate and graduate) and postdoctoral fellows, Staff, and any other individuals using University Resources and facilities while creating or developing copyrightable works. This Policy is a condition of employment and enrollment in the University.

3.0 Policy Statement

Copyright is the right of the creator of an original work to control the use of the work. Under copyright laws, works prepared by an employee within the scope of the employee’s employment is considered a Work Made for Hire and the work is owned by the employer, unless an exception applies.

The University recognizes the “academic tradition.” This tradition holds that faculty members, instructors, and fellows, though employees of the University, retain ownership of all intellectual property rights in their own scholarship and academic writings. Students of the University are also encompassed by the academic tradition when it relates to their scholarship and academic writings. Staff fall outside of the academic tradition, and as a result, works written in the course of their employment are owned by the University, unless there is a written agreement that provides otherwise.

Ownership of copyright in materials created by an employee, including any student hired as an employee, in performing the employee’s duties in the course of employment shall belong to the University as a Work Made for Hire in accordance with the United States Copyright Act subject to the “academic tradition” exception. Ownership by the University shall apply whether or not the works are created on or off campus or during the University’s normal business hours.  In keeping with the “academic tradition”, the University does not claim ownership to scholarly works, and traditional works of authorship (e.g. books, articles, essays) of Academic Appointees.  When an employee holds a faculty appointment and an administrative position (e.g. deans, department chairs, heads of administrative departments, centers, schools, and units), any work created by the employee while performing duties in relation to the administrative position are works for hire and owned by the University. 

Except where the works are created under the circumstances set forth in Section 3.1, Ownership of copyright in Instructional Materials created by (1) Academic Appointees related to their regular teaching assignments, research, and scholarly publications (see Section 3.3), and (2) students in the course of their education (see Section 3.4), or (3) Staff (while not performing the employee’s assigned duties) shall, subject to restrictions set forth in Section 3.8 and the University’s retention of a license to use the works set forth in Section 3.5, be owned by the authors of the works.

3.1 Copyrightable Works Owned by the University

In addition to ownership of the copyright of works created as a Work Made for Hire, the University shall own the copyright in all works that are created by Members of the Brown Community under the following circumstances:

3.1.1 Institutional Works

Works created with the support of a specific allocation of University funds or created at the direction of, or assigned duty by the University for a specific University purpose or for special compensation by the University in addition to regular salary. Works that have been or will be created or developed over a period of time by multiple Members of the Brown Community, simultaneously or consecutively, where it is not appropriate or not possible to attribute authorship to a defined group, and works created that include holdings or unique data sets that are periodically employed by Academic Appointees or students other than the author or authors of the works are considered Institutional Works. So as to avoid any doubt, University-directed Institutional Works should be governed by a contract detailing the work to be performed and the ownership rights to be created.

3.1.2 Works Created with Substantial Use of University Resources

Works created by Staff outside the scope of their employment with use of University Resources that is equal to or exceeds the ordinary reasonable use of University Resources on a daily basis by such Staff in performing those duties within the scope of said Staff’s employment or, in the case of Academic Appointees, exceeds the level of support that is commonly, customarily, and reasonably accessed by Academic Appointees. Whenever there is any ambiguity regarding the ownership of works in which University Resources are being used, a written agreement between the University and the employee designating who will own copyright must be entered into before University Resources are accessed, used or otherwise supplied and the works in question are created and/or developed. Any question regarding what constitutes substantial input or substantial resources should be referred to the Provost's office.

3.1.3 Works Created Under Sponsored Research Projects and Other Agreements

Works created under a sponsored research grant or other agreement between the University and a third party. The University will hold the copyright in the work unless the terms of the grant or other agreement otherwise imposes different obligations on the University with respect to proprietary rights of the work. The University may in accordance with this Section 3.1, if permitted by the grant or contract, assign the copyright to the author or authors if necessary to comply with the requirements of scholarly publications.

3.1.4 Audio-Visual Works of Classes

Recordings (including audio, video, photographic or any form of digital reproduction) created for a class or course offered to students of the University or presentation made by Members of the Brown Community to students in a class or course. The consent of all people who are to be included in the Recordings must be obtained prior to making the Recording (see the University’s Image Use Policy), unless the Recording is being made for the sole purpose of a reasonable accommodation for a qualified person with a disability. Recordings owned by the University may not be distributed externally without the permission of the Provost. No Recordings may be distributed outside of the University for any purpose without the permission of everyone who appears in the Recording.

3.1.5 Patentable Works/Computer Software

Computer software created by Members of the Brown Community in the course of their University duties or using University funds or funds administered by the University. All creations of computer software must be disclosed to the office of Brown Technology Innovations (“BTI”). University-owned computer software may be distributed by the author to others for academic and research purposes only using the Computer Science Department Copyright Notice (See: https://cs.brown.edu/about/system/publish/copyright/copy_notice/). Any other release or distribution of computer software must be coordinated with BTI. BTI will provide appropriate guidance for distribution licenses and will arrange for copyright registration when appropriate. Distribution for internal University purposes need not be coordinated with BTI and is permissible with the approval of the author of the work and the Department Head.

Commercialization of all University-owned computer software will be managed by BTI. Any revenues received by the University resulting from such commercialization of computer software will be distributed using the same formula as for Net Royalties in the Patent Policy and for such purposes the authors of the computer software will be treated as Inventors as under the Patent Policy except for Institutional Works. For Institutional Works, there will be no royalty distribution to any authors. BTI may decide to assign the University’s copyright to the author or authors of computer software on a case by case basis.

3.1.6 Internet and Other On-line Courses

Works specially created by an Academic Appointee at the direction of the University for use as Instructional Works in any instructional internet or other on-line distance education class, series, event, course, project or program which the University sponsors, offers, or otherwise participates in shall belong to the University. The University shall permit the Academic Appointee a non-exclusive royalty free license to use the work in scholarly publications. To the extent that an Academic Appointee desires to use Instructional Materials first developed or used in an on-campus setting for the purpose of an internet or other on-line distance education setting, the Academic Appointee must assign to the University, in writing, ownership in such Instructional Materials. No Academic Appointee may enter into any non-Brown University internet or other on-line distance education class, series, event, project or program to teach a course without first disclosing the Academic Appointees’ intent to do so to the appropriate Dean of the Faculty and obtaining a determination from the Dean that the teaching of the course does not create a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment with such Academic Appointees’ obligations under the Academic Appointees’ appointment at the University.

With respect to the foregoing works, the University may decide to assign its copyright to the author or authors of the works or grant licenses on a case-by-case basis upon request of the author of the works subject to the terms of any third parties. All requests for transfer of the ownership in copyright shall be made to BTI and, if granted, shall be subject to the same rights to the University as set forth in Section 3.5.

3.2 Use of University Owned Copyrightable Works

Faculty Members who create copyrightable works owned by the University under Sections 3.1 above, shall have the right to use the works for their own non-commercial academic purposes. Use for any other purposes must be approved by the Provost or designee and documented by written agreement.

3.3 Ownership of Instructional Materials

Except for Instructional Materials created under Section 3.1 above, copyright in Instructional Materials created by Academic Appointees, shall be owned by the Academic Appointees in adherence to the long standing “academic tradition” exception subject to the license retained by the University pursuant to Section 3.5 and the restrictions on use provided in this policy. Academic Appointees may not distribute or sell Instructional Materials for commercial purposes or use Instructional Materials to teach the same course outside of the University while employed at the University. Academic Appointees must seek permission of the Provost or designee to use Instructional Materials owned by the University under Sections 3.1 unless such use will be at another non-commercial institution during the Academic Appointees’ employment at the University for scholarly presentations (See Course Materials Ownership FAQ). Once the Academic Appointee is no longer employed by the University, the Academic Appointee may make use of Intellectual Materials created while employed at the University for the Academic Appointee’s own scholarly, non-profit, non-competing purposes. Instructional Materials collectively generated by a class are considered Institutional Works by the University and the copyright belongs to the University.

3.4 Works Created by Students in the Course of Their Studies

Except as otherwise provided in Sections 3.1 above, works created by students in the course of their education shall be owned by the individual student subject to the University’s reservation of rights set forth in Section 3.5 below. Student-created works posted in a course online forum are owned by the students and cannot be reproduced or published by instructors without written permission from those students.

3.5 Reservation of University Rights

For copyrightable works for which the University does not take ownership (either as a Work Made for Hire or under Section 3.1 above), and any works that the University assigns to a Member of the Brown Community, the University retains a fully paid up, perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, re-use, distribute, reproduce, display, make derivative works, and make all traditional, customary or reasonable academic use of all student assignments, papers, essays, theses, dissertations, and Instructional Materials for the educational and research purposes of the Members of the Brown Community. Such license includes the right to use content and structure of any course and to revise and update course material for the purpose of continuing to offer the course of instruction or to develop and offer derivative courses of instruction, in both conventional, and non-conventional settings (including any instructional internet or other on-line distance education class, series, event, course, project or program). The foregoing right does not include a royalty-free license to use or to reproduce a published textbook for classroom or library use. In accordance with academic custom, the University will acknowledge the authors of these works unless the authors request otherwise. The University retains the right to use such course materials for its own educational and research purposes, including archiving the materials.

3.6 Distribution of Net Income from University-Owned Copyrights

With respect to works created under Section 3.1 that are commercialized by the office of Brown Technology Innovations, the University will share with the employee author of copyrightable works any net income received from the commercialization or exploitation of University-owned copyrighted work using the same formula for Net Royalties as is used for licensed patents.

3.7 Works of Non-Employees/Independent Contractors

Under the United States Copyright Act, works of consultants and independent contractors, are not works for hire and owned by the author and not by the University, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. Agreements with independent contractors should almost universally contain a provision that the ownership of the work created under the agreement shall belong to the University. The University’s template Professional Services Agreement should be used when engaging consultants, which contains the work for hire clause.

3.8 Use of Brown University’s Name and Images

Employees may not use the University’s trademarks, trade name or other identifying designations or insignia on materials as an endorsement, enhancement, or sanction for a product or service or otherwise to be distributed outside of the University without the prior written consent of the Office of University Communications. Employees may not include images of University owned facilities, buildings or property in works for purposes other than personal, non-commercial use or scholarly research and publication without the prior written consent of the Office of University Communications.  

3.9 The Ad Hoc Appeals Committee (AHAC)

When an appeal or matter requiring review or consideration arises relating to this Policy, the Provost, with input from the Vice President for Research, shall appoint an AHAC. Each AHAC will be comprised of three members of the faculty who do not have any apparent or actual conflicts of interest with respect to the matter or authors at issue. Concerns regarding the composition of the AHAC shall be brought directly to the Provost.  An AHAC shall be appointed to review a single matter, and may be reconvened at the Provost’s discretion to review any matters related to the initial matter for which it was created. All AHAC determinations and recommendations must be made in writing and submitted to the Provost and the Vice President for Research. The Provost and the Vice President for Research shall review the AHAC determinations or recommendations, and issue a written decision.  Decisions of the Provost and the Vice President are final and not appealable.

4.0 Definitions

For the purpose of this policy, the terms below have the following definitions:

Faculty Member/s Academic Appointee:

An individual holding a title granted by any of the University’s faculty affairs offices (e.g. the Office of the Dean of the Faculty or the Office of BioMed Faculty Administration). This includes individuals employed by an affiliated hospital, a practice plan, or a foundation and have a University faculty appointment. This policy covers them for their work related to the University.

Institutional Works:

Institutional Works are also works that have been or will be created or developed over a period of time by multiple Members of the Brown Community, simultaneously or consecutively, where it is not appropriate or not possible to attribute authorship to a defined group, and works created that include holdings or unique data sets that are periodically employed by Faculty Members or students other than the author or authors of the works.

Instructional Materials:

Instructional Materials means the content, assessment, and structure of the course and materials prepared in any form, including but not limited to, lectures, lecture notes, course syllabi, reading lists, exams, supplemental materials, assignments, study guides, bibliographies, visual aids, images (audio and/or visual), diagrams, slides, lab exercises, tools, simulations, multimedia presentations, web pages, reading lists, or digital media, or any combination thereof.

Member of the Brown Community:

Faculty (including instructors and visiting faculty), students (including undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellows), staff, and any other individuals using University Resources and facilities while creating or developing copyrightable works.

Staff:

Non-academic appointee employees. 

University Resources:

Includes all assets of the University including, but not limited to: intellectual property, physical equipment (including computers and other electronic equipment), computing resources, Staff, office and classroom space, supplies, tools, vehicles, funding, facilities, specialized services (e.g. IT support), and postage.

Work Made for Hire:

A "Work Made for Hire" is defined under the Copyright Act as a work (1) created by an employee within the scope of the employee’s employment; or (2) where the work is not created by an employee under (1), when specially ordered or commissioned for use in certain works enumerated in the Copyright Act, if the parties expressly agree in writing that the work will be a Work Made for Hire.  Additional guidelines are provided at http://www.brown.edu/copyright. Works made for hire include works created by staff in the course of their employment. Also, if the University enters a contract with “Work for Hire” provisions, any work product created under the contract would belong to the University. Copyrightable works of scholarly research, course materials or artistic works made by faculty members are subject to the “academic tradition” exception and are the property of the author or authors.

5.0 Responsibilities

All individuals to whom this policy applies are responsible for becoming familiar with and following this policy. University supervisors are responsible for promoting the understanding of this policy and for taking appropriate steps to help ensure compliance with it.

6.0 Consequences for Violating this Policy

Failure to comply with this and related policies is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension without pay, or termination of employment or association with the University, in accordance with applicable (e.g., staff, faculty, student) disciplinary procedures.

7.0 Related Information

Brown University is a community in which employees are encouraged to share workplace concerns with University leadership. Additionally, Brown’s Anonymous Reporting Hotline allows anonymous and confidential reporting on matters of concern online or by phone (877-318-9184).

The following information complements and supplements this document. The information is intended to help explain this policy and is not an all-inclusive list of policies, procedures, laws and requirements.

7.2 Related Procedures:

  • Contracts Management

7.3 Related Forms:

  • N/A

7.4 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  • N/A

7.5 Other Related Information:

Policy Owner and Contact(s)

Policy Owner: Vice President for Research

Policy Approved by: Corporation

Contact Information:

Executive Director, Brown Technology Innovations Email 401-863-7408

Policy History

Policy Effective Date:

Policy Last Reviewed:

Policy Update/Review Summary:

The Corporation of Brown University approved and adopted the Brown University Patent and Invention Policy and Copyright Policy on May 27, 2005. The Patent and Invention Policy was updated on December 13, 2019 and was at that time separated from this Copyright Ownership and Use Policy. The Corporation reserves the right to revoke or amend the Policy.  This Policy and any amendment is effective upon its adoption and replaces all prior versions of the Policy. Summary of changes from last policy are as follows:

  • There are two components that comprise the general policy – i.e. works owned by Brown, and “academic tradition” exception – instead of one statement that was you own it except.
  • Made “work-made-for-hire” as part of the general policy statement instead of including it as an exclusion for work owned by Brown.
  • Previous numerous sections relating to use of Brown images, name and logo have been combined into one section.
  • Clarification of an Institutional Work.