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Home > UW Policies > UW Owned Works > Exceptions


Exceptions to UW authors retaining all rights in copyrightable materials arise through:

  • Funding arrangements
  • “Work for hire” in copyright law
  • Significant use of UW resources

  • Commissioning works

Exceptions defined
Exceptions arise when there are internal University funding arrangements, such as use of Royalty Research Fund (RRF) or University Investment Fund funding or release time to devote to a University commissioned work.

Exceptions can arise when use is made of University facilities, equipment, and services.

Exceptions also arise when work is prepared as a required product or major focus of externally sponsored research in which there are conditions restricting copyright privileges. When a work is a routine progress report prepared as a required element in sponsored research, and has not been created with significant use of University facilities, equipment, or support services, the copyright will be with the author.

Other exceptions arise in the development of works through external funding arrangements under which the University has specific ownership obligations or when the University has commissioned a work in writing.

Works made for hire
Copyright law provides that employers may own the works of their employees that are created within the course and scope of employment. Such works are defined in the law as "works made for hire."

Some works created by employees at the University are works made for hire, others are not.

The University does not assert ownership of all works that may be considered works made for hire, only those where special circumstances dictate University ownership is appropriate.

Interpreting the policy
When exceptions apply, copyright will vest with the University and a work will be considered either "University-owned" or "University-sponsored". These terms are somewhat confusing, as the University may have an ownership interest in both types of works.

University-owned works are typically works specially commissioned by the University, while University-sponsored works are typically works created with University funding or resources. This distinction has a bearing on royalty sharing if revenue is generated from licensing the work.

University-owned works
Materials shall be "University-owned" within the meaning of this policy statement if the work is a “work for hire” under copyright law, or if the author was commissioned in writing by the University (or one of its colleges, schools, departments, or other divisions) to develop the materials as a part of the author's regularly compensated duties, as for example, released time arrangements in the case of faculty members. -- University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2B2

UW Employees
Much work prepared by staff employees in the course of their normal activities would be University-owned.

For a work to be University-owned, there must be a written understanding that a particular work is to be developed for the University as part of an individual's employment. This is not a general statement that any work prepared by an employee belongs to the University.

University-sponsored works
"Materials shall be 'University-sponsored materials'" within the meaning of this policy statement if the author developed the materials in the course of performance of his or her normal duties and utilized University staff, resources, or funding to develop the work." -- University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2B3

Faculty and Student Scholarly Activity
Student and faculty scholarly works would not normally be University-owned. "As to a faculty member, 'normal duties' does not include his or her usual scholarly activity unless it involves extensive uncompensated use of University resources." -- University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2B3

"As to a faculty member, 'commissioned in writing' specifically does not refer to his or her general obligation to produce scholarly works." -- University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2B2

Written Agreements
Before a work begins, it is desirable to have a written agreement about the rights of the University and of participants whenever (1) a question exists as to whether the materials will be University-owned or University-sponsored, or (2) copyrightable materials are likely to result from the joint efforts of persons in academic departments and service departments within the University. -- University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2B4

Questions about ownership and exceptions
Whenever there is a question regarding ownership of copyright and whether or not exceptions apply, consult the UW TechTransfer for additional information and an opinion with regard to the University's ownership interest.

Full text of the copyright policy
University Handbook, Volume Four, Part V, Chapter 7, Section 2


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