Intellectual Property: Helpful Resources for UOITFA Members

As our Members are transitioning from in-person to online classes, there has been a lot of discussion around Intellectual Property (IP) and Member rights.  In particular, the concern around IP rights and teaching materials has become front and centre for many as they design and/or redesign their course materials for the next academic year.  Below are a series of resources we have found that may help Members to answer some of their questions on this issue.

Traditionally, most academics did not really think about IP as, for the most part, IP policies were largely concerned with the commercialization of research productivity. More recently there has been an effort to extend IP rights of universities to teaching materials. We know that these questions on IP have been circulating for some time in Academia, as universities appear to be encroaching on these rights, especially as it relates to teaching and teaching materials of academic staff.

First, we are directing Members to an article and other supporting material in our Collective Agreement that address issues of IP.

  • Article 29 – Intellectual Property
  • Appendix “D”
  • Letter of Understanding #2.

These documents reflect several attempts at bargaining on this issue over the years, with limited success.  The current Article 29 is old, written in 2003, when the university opened, and needs to be renegotiated.

That said, there are some good principals included that recognize the importance of respecting P rights of academic staff, for instance in the Preamble to Appendix “D”, the university clearly wants to reassure Members that they understand the importance of IP rights and their role in generating innovation in all aspects of the Members’ work:

The university believes that efforts to increase and to communicate knowledge are at the heart of academic endeavors. Often these endeavors will result in the creation of Intellectual Property that may be of benefit to the broader society. In general, the university believes that the creators of intellectual property should retain rights in it in cases where the creators are academic personnel.

We are hoping to see change in the next round of bargaining, given the work that has been completed under the Letter of Understanding #2 (LOU2) mentioned above. We do have, however, other resources to help Members make decisions around their IP, as they relate to the use and creation of teaching materials.

A rather good set of guidelines has been put out by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), of which the UOITFA is a member. In CAUT’s Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material they note that, “Under no circumstances should on-line courses developed for internal use be shared with other institutions or transferred to third parties without the express permission of the course creator.”

Other universities have taken up the challenge to advise members in the issues surrounding student sharing of IP protected course materials, to commercial sites, a practice that may intensify as Members are putting courses online during the pandemic.

These documents are useful, as it is important to remember that the copyright policies that we are expected to use regarding the work of others, are the same policies that protect our own work from the misuse by others.

The University of Alberta also has a fairly good introduction to Copyright Law in Canada:

Reflecting the enduring nature of these questions, CAUT tackled just this issue in years past creating a legal briefing in 2003 on many of the questions they were receiving about IP.  A copy of this document can be found here

Although it is dated, it still has some very useful information in it including: What is Intellectual Property and Who Owns It?

Several of our Members have had questions about content that can be used in lectures that is publicly available in the Internet. In terms of the concerns around students sharing copyrighted material publicly, 2 E “Publicly Available Internet Material” of the Guideline above notes that (Italics added):

“Beyond this implied license, section 30.04 of the Copyright Act allows educational institutions, for educational purposes, to reproduce, communicate and perform for students publicly available Internet materials – if the materials are legitimately posted on the Internet by the copyright holder, attribution is given and there is no notice attached to the materials that clearly prohibits such use (a copyright symbol alone is insufficient to void the exception).”

The Ontario Confederation and Universities Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has also put out a policy paper for the last Board meeting that included this recommendation to FAs on requests to share entire courses:

“Some universities have been approached about joining a consortium to offer large undergraduate classes collectively. Faculty associations must be consulted on any such arrangements in order to ensure that the intellectual property of their members is protected and that provisions of collective agreements are respected. It may well be that the time and energy spent negotiating such consortiums would be better spent working collaboratively with faculty associations to develop creative and appropriate solutions for emergency remote teaching.”

It is always a good idea to be thinking about your IP rights, but issues seem to be amplified as we move to remote teaching practices during the pandemic. The issues of IP are complex, involving not only what instructors are using to teach, but also who should be allowed to use and share them. Putting content online makes capturing and sharing material easier than ever. One upside to the ever-encroaching copyright needs of universities is that they may also be able to share in the cost of protecting that copyrighted material when it is misused. If you have questions on IP as it related to teaching and the CA, please do not hesitate to contact us at office@uoitfa.ca .

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