University copyright policy unclear

The University has broad powers to use the work of its faculty—a fact that escapes the notice of many professors.

The University’s copyright committee made it clear Monday that faculty should be more aware of how and when their copyrighted lecture materials can be used, and members plan to take action to make that happen.

To clarify policy about the University’s right to utilize materials faculty have created themselves, the committee will draft more accessible guidelines to which the faculty can refer.

According to the copyright policy policy 00008319.pdf, as a condition of faculty employment, UNC has the right to freely use any traditional or non-directed materials created by the faculty.

Traditional or non-directed works are defined by the policy as “pedagogical, scholarly, literary or aesthetic works resulting from nondirected effort.”

“The University has nonexclusive rights,” committee member Jean DeSaix said. “There needs to be somewhere to have an explanation of what that really means.”

DeSaix said some faculty members are unclear about what the University could do to redistribute their materials.

“If I make videos of myself, it’s OK for the University to use that anywhere and anytime they want to,” DeSaix said.

“People don’t necessarily understand that when they go into creating those types of materials.”

To dispel any confusion about the policy, the committee plans to release a more succinct and specific document about it, although there is no set timeline for the release.

“The committee decided that faculty members needed more information in a more convenient location,” said Sarah Michalak, committee chairwoman and University librarian.

DeSaix said clarifying the policy will reduce the likelihood of backlash from faculty members if their material is used by the University.

The copyright committee was reinstated two years ago per the request of the faculty executive committee, Michalak said.

Before the committee’s reinstatement, it had been on a hiatus for several years, as there did not seem to be as many copyright issues at the University, she added.

However, after a situation in which UNC continued to use course material created by an adjunct professor who was no longer employed by the University, the faculty executive committee asked the copyright committee to reconvene and explore the issue.

“When faculty move on to another job, the University can use material they created to continue to teach a course here,” committee member Jon Finson said.

The committee has not yet determined the specific way in which it will release the clarifying information, and several possibilities are in discussion.

“We may put an informational article in the University Gazette or on the library website explaining the policy,” Michalak said.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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