Copyright and intellectual property issues are a part of the fabric of research and scholarly communications, and thus all Stanford faculty, students and staff need a working understanding of copyright law as it impacts their daily lives. The Copyright Reminder, which highlights common campus copyright concerns and outlines fundamental elements of US copyright law, is distributed annually to ensure that the Stanford community remains aware of those issues.
Highlights for 2015
This section calls out issues that have been of particular concern or areas where recommended practices have been revised since the last Copyright Reminder.
Use of Web Tools in Teaching
2014 brought a surge in interest in the use of third-party applications and new technology tools in teaching. Collaboration tools can enhance the learning environment, but it is important to ensure that any tool used in teaching is compliant with FERPA, the Federal law governing the management of student records. These tools can also raise concerns related to web security, content ownership, and confidentiality.
- Content ownership concerns (e.g., are students required to give away or license their copyright interests in student-generated content?)
- Privacy concerns (e.g., can students control the distribution of their own content?)
- Content use for non-Stanford purposes (e.g., will the service provider keep a copy of the student-generated content for data-mining or other purposes?)
Managing Intellectual Property Across Teams
Questions about management of copyright in research and pedagogical output are common, particularly in situations where multiple Stanford workgroups participate in the project. Where you are collaborating with another unit, it is important to determine in advance how rights to the output of the research project will be managed.
Stanford’s copyright policy defines who owns copyright at Stanford for Stanford related projects. The Dean of Research is authorized to make decisions regarding copyright ownership, including whether the work is owned by an individual author (or authors), by the university or under some combination of ownership. The Dean of Research will also arbitrate any disputes that arise within project teams.
However, when cross-departmental teams undertake projects, it is best to have a discussion up front to clarify how copyright, patents, and other IP will be managed and which teams will retain and manage rights for all portions of the project. Be sure to consider not only publications arising from the project, but also data sets, software, websites, user interfaces, specifications, codebooks and other outputs. It is acceptable for faculty to hire graduate students, students or post-docs to provide research assistance without an expectation that these individuals will have an ownership interest in the final written output. It is, however, best for faculty to make that clear to researchers at the time of hire to avoid confusion. Similarly, in circumstances in which university funding is significant, the university likely has ownership interests and if this result is not the expected outcome, it is best to confer with the Dean of Research at the outset of a project.
Creating, receiving and sharing data, including access to large data sets, has become a key component of research at Stanford. Also, under university policy, when researchers generate data in the course of their Stanford work, the data sets remain under their control but are owned by the University. Researchers should therefore ensure that data sets they share are appropriately licensed, and that they carefully monitor license terms of data sets they bring in to Stanford. Researchers can contact the appropriate office at Stanford to help navigate these agreements. The relevant offices are:
- Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) – for agreements with government or non-profit entities (https://doresearch.stanford.edu/research-offices/office-sponsored-research-osr)
- Industrial Contracts Office (ICO) – for agreements with industry for research purposes (https://ico.stanford.edu)
- Procurement Office – for agreements to purchase or store data
- Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) – for data created at Stanford that is intended for licensing for commercial purposes (https://otl.stanford.edu)
- Stanford Libraries - provides data management services for all Stanford researchers (https://library.stanford.edu/research/data-management-services)