RU IP shop “right”

Discussion by Bill Kovarik 

A “shop right” is the presumed “right” of a Commonwealth of Virginia university to use any copyrighted material produced by its own faculty for any purpose. A book, paper, article or lecture could be re-used, without the permission of the faculty member, at the convenience of the university.

There are a variety of problems with the idea of a shop right.  At the very least, it interferes with normal academic publishing processes in that it creates a major negotiating problem for future publications and a legal problem for those with existing publication contracts.

It is also an entirely novel imposition by the university in an area where nothing of the kind previously existed or currently exists.   And it implies that all teaching and lecture materials belong to the university in a way that would allow resale of those materials, for example in distance education, without consulting or paying faculty.

In previous years the IP committee has been told that a shop right “is the law;” that “other universities have it;” and that we must change RU policy in order to conform with established law and precedent.

Strictly speaking, this is not true. A shop right is the law in North Carolina. Virginia law does not specify the method for determining ownership of faculty authored works.

That’s up to each university:

In § 2.2-2822. Ownership and use of patents and copyrights developed by certain public employees Section

4.D the law says that patents and other IP developed by state employees belong to the state, except:

D. This section shall not apply to employees of public institutions of higher education who shall be subject to the patent and copyright policies of the institution employing them.

Under the current RU faculty handbook, which is the current and thus far unchanged contract with the university, the faculty own all traditional faculty authored works.

3.4.2 Ownership of Intellectual Property The university has an interest in intellectual property if and only if: – the property results from or is developed by faculty or employees acting within the scope of assigned duties; or – the property results from or is developed wholly or significantly through the use of state general funds.

Thus, there is currently no “shop right” in existence and there is no legal mandate to establish one.

I would propose that we simply not change the existing traditional policy with respect to copyright ownership.

The current policy states that faculty authored works of all kinds — from teaching materials to traditional books and articles to e-mail correspondence — belongs to the faculty and not to the university unless there has been a significant investment by the university.

This seems like a workable status quo for now.