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Faculty create many kinds of works that are directly related to their university employment and which might be considered as falling within the employee work for hire category. For example, faculty are hired, as employees of the University, to teach students. It would be difficult to assert that the creation of teaching materials is not within the scope of their employment. Therefore, under the Copyright Act, the employer, the University, would be considered the "author" and copyright holder of the faculty-created teaching materials. A similar argument might be made for scholarly journal articles. But that's not the way it has traditionally worked, is it? Faculty automatically assume that they own both the physical and intellectual property rights to the materials they create while at the University, don't they? Are they wrong?
No. The answer is tradition and policy. Although there is no specific provision in the Copyright Act exempting University faculty from the work for hire provision, traditionally universities have not asserted copyright ownership in faculty works, such as journal articles, books, and even teaching materials. Usually universities, including UNC Charlotte, continue to respect this tradition, for the most part, and have formalized this position in their own Copyright Policy.
However, as courses and teaching move online and require the talents and resources of other university employees and units, teaching materials begin to lose their appearance as a work of single authorship. Policies have had to evolve to address circumstances where extraordinary use of University resources have been consumed, which may require that the University, as a responsible manager of taxpayer dollars, must assert copyright ownership. Layered on top of that is the fact that this University's Copyright Policy must be consistent with the over-arching University of North Carolina Copyright Use and Ownership Policy. (the system policy)
Our Copyright Policy applies to all faculty and staff as a condition of employment and all students as a condition of enrollment. It is in everyone's interest to be familiar with this policy, ask questions as necessary, and understand your rights and responsibilities. Our policy and its terms and conditions are discussed in detail here.