Policy on Copyright (USA)Policy Number: 206-USA
I. Purpose and Scope
Northeastern University is a nonprofit educational institution devoted to teaching, research, and other scholarly activities in the public interest. The university’s faculty, staff, and students, as part of their normally assigned duties and scholarly activities, carry out research which may be supported in part, or in whole, by the university from its own resources, or by grants or contracts with outside sponsors. Further, faculty prepare Original Works of Authorship for use in the instruction of students at the university. The respective rights and obligations of the university, its faculty, staff, and students with respect to Original Works of Authorship as defined herein, are delineated by this policy.
The principal objectives of this policy are to:
1. Encourage creative research, innovative scholarship, a spirit of inquiry leading to the generation of new knowledge, and the free and creative expression and exchange of ideas and comment;
2. Facilitate the transfer of university-owned research results to commerce and industry, to facilitate institutional technology agreements with parties external to the university, and to encourage the broadest utilization of the findings of scientific investigation to provide the maximum benefit to the public;
3. Establish principles for:
a. Determining the rights and obligations of the university, authors, and research sponsors with respect to Original Works of Authorship, to safeguard the intellectual property of both the author and the university, and to define the equitable disposition of interests therein; and
b. Equitably sharing income derived from Original Works of Authorship produced at or for the university;
4. Providing incentives to authors in the form of professional recognition, continuing research support, and direct financial compensation;
5. Preserve traditional university practices and privileges with respect to the publication of scholarly, instructional, or artistic works; and
6. Protect the university’s rights and assets.
This Policy applies to faculty, staff, and students engaged in research, teaching, and other scholarly activities that result in Original Works of Authorship as defined herein.
For the purposes of this Policy,
Computerware means computer software, firmware, and databases.
Directed Work means any Original Work of Authorship agreed upon in writing between the university and faculty author(s)/creator(s), the creation of which is (i) based on a specific request by the university and (ii) which is supported by Significant Use of University Administered Resources.
Gross Licensing Revenue means money accrued by the university as a result of royalty revenue, sublicensee income, proceeds resulting from a liquidation of a university equity interest in a licensee, or licensing fees included in a license agreement concerning Original Works of Authorship in which ownership or rights of reproduction and distribution reside in the university pursuant to this Policy on Copyright.
Invention means any new and useful, process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, which is conceived and/or reduced to practice as patentable subject matter, in accordance with 35 U.S.C. § 100 et seq.
Net Licensing Revenue means Gross Licensing Revenue minus any costs and expenses incurred by the university in obtaining, defending, enforcing, maintaining, licensing, developing and/or marketing rights to Original Works of Authorship in which ownership or rights of reproduction and distribution reside in the university pursuant to this Policy on Copyright.
Original Work of Authorship refers to works of authorship that fall within the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.
Pedagogical Work means teaching material(s), which are not Directed Works, created by faculty primarily for instruction of university students, and include, but are not limited to, syllabi, curricula, exams, sample exam answers, course materials, lecture notes, slide decks, individual illustrations, video clips, audio clips, class exercises, class assignments and recorded classes.
Publish means the same as “Publication,” under the Copyright Act, which includes the distribution of copies of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending, or the offer to distribute copies to a group of persons for further distribution or public display or performance. A public performance or display of a work does not in itself constitute publication.
Significant Use of University Administered Resources means the use of university facilities, equipment, funds, personnel, and other resources that exceeds what is customarily and currently provided to similarly situated colleagues of an author in the author’s department or to similarly situated students enrolled in the same course or college. The following examples are intended for guidance purposes only and do not exclude other uses that may be considered significant:
- Use of specialized services or facilities such as equipment, production facilities, service laboratories, studios, specialized computing resources or facilities, wherein fees normally required for access or use are waived.
- Use of financial or other support, including reduction in levels of teaching, service, or other typical university activities (e.g. course load, student advising responsibilities, department meetings, office hours, administrative responsibilities) for the creation of an Original Work of Authorship that exceeds the typical supplemental pay and offloading from regular duties.
- Use of university personnel (including secretarial, clerical, and administrative staff) and research assistants beyond the level customarily provided to all university faculty and departments.
- Use of university proprietary property that serves as a significant basis for the resulting Original Work of Authorship.
The university shall not consider use of facilities, equipment, funds, personnel and other resources to be significant if the university makes them generally available to the university community, provided that such use is not in excess of the amount normally provided.
Decisions regarding whether use of resources is significant shall be determined, consistent with this policy, by the dean(s) of the author’s college, or by the dean’s designee.
Thesis and Dissertation each mean a student work representing significant original or independent research and for which the student receives a substantial amount of credit toward a degree or certificate. Where there is a question concerning whether or not a student work is a Thesis or Dissertation, the Provost or the Provost’s designee shall make a good faith determination concerning this issue, which shall be final and binding on all parties.
Traditional Academic Work means a scholarly or creative Original Work of Authorship intended for broader Publication beyond the university, including, but not limited to, a literary work, an article, book, textbook, chapter, novel, computer code, work of visual art, dramatic work, or musical composition.
Unit means, without limitation, college, department, administrative unit, group, center or institute.
A. Policy on Copyright
1. Scope of Copyright Protection
a. Pursuant to Title 17 of the U.S. Code, Copyright protection exists for Original Works of Authorship, including (i) literary works, (ii) musical works, including any accompanying words, (iii) dramatic works, including any accompanying music, (iv) pantomimes and choreographic works, (v) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, (vi) motion pictures and other audiovisual works, (vii) sound recordings, and (viii) architectural works.
b. Copyright protection for an Original Work of Authorship extends only to the expression which constitutes the work and not to any idea, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
2. Ownership and Disposition of Copyrightable Material
a. University Ownership Pursuant to a Grant or Agreement. In the case of any Original Work of Authorship which is created or developed in the course of or pursuant to a grant or agreement for sponsored research between the university and a third party, or pursuant to any written agreement between an author and the university expressly for the production of such Original Work of Authorship, the university shall hold copyright ownership in such Original Work of Authorship unless the terms of the grant or agreement explicitly state otherwise. Notwithstanding the above, if (i) the Original Work of Authorship is a Traditional Academic Work and (ii) the terms of the grant or agreement permit, the university hereby assigns copyright in such Traditional Academic Work to the author(s) to facilitate compliance with the requirements of scholarly Publication.
b. University Ownership of Works Made for Hire. An Original Work of Authorship created or developed by university staff or other non-faculty employee within the scope of such person’s employment, or which is created or developed by any person with Significant Use of University Administered Resources is a “work made for hire” within the meaning of the Copyright Act and copyright ownership thereof resides in the university.
i. Works Made for Hire by university faculty exclude (i) Traditional Academic Works and (ii) Pedagogical Works created by university faculty authors without Significant Use of University Administered Resources or a governing grant or agreement. Works Made for Hire by university faculty are limited to administrative documents relating to the university’s decision-making processes, measures dealing with organizational, administrative or budgetary matters, or other business records which are proprietary to the university.
c. Ownership of Student Works. Copyright ownership in any Original Work of Authorship, including any Original Work of Authorship created or developed by a student of the university as a result of participation in for-credit coursework, and which is not covered within the provisions of subsections a. or b. of this Section 2 (Ownership and Disposition of Copyrightable Material) resides in the student-author(s).
d. Ownership of Theses and Dissertations. Ownership of a Thesis or a Dissertation, if not otherwise established by this Section 2, resides in the student author. However, such student, as a condition of a degree award, hereby grants the university a nonexclusive, irrevocable, fully paid-up, royalty-free license to reproduce and distribute copies of such Thesis for noncommercial purposes.
e. Ownership of Pedagogical Works. Pursuant to the Faculty Handbook module on Pedagogical Works, ownership of Pedagogical Works which are not Directed Works reside in the faculty author(s), who hereby grant to university a nonexclusive, irrevocable, fully paid-up, royalty-free license to use, re-use, distribute, reproduce, display, make derivative works and make all traditional, customary or reasonable academic use of Pedagogical Works for the educational purposes of the university, including archiving purposes. Such license includes the right to use course content and structure and to revise and update course material for the purpose of continuing to offer the course of instruction or to develop and offer derivative courses of instruction to registered university students for educational, non-commercial purposes. In accordance with academic custom, the university will acknowledge the author(s) of such works unless the author(s) request otherwise.
Ownership of Computerware. Except where provided herein or to the contrary in other controlling documents such as grants or other agreements, ownership of computer databases, software, and firmware created or produced at the university, along with any rights of copyright pertaining thereto, shall reside in the university wherever such materials are created:
i. Pursuant to Sections 2 (a) and/or 2(b), above;
ii. By non-faculty employees acting within the scope of their employment;
iii. By anyone employing Significant Use of University Administered Resources.
Notwithstanding the foregoing paragraph f., ownership of any Original Work of Authorship in the form of software source code created at the university and otherwise subject to assignment to the university, which source code includes, in whole or in part, Open Source Software (OSS) and as such is subject to the terms and conditions of one or more OSS licenses that purport to require the university, as copyright holder of the Original Work of Authorship, to (i) license any patent claims in the university patent portfolio to third parties, and/or (ii) obligate the university to deliver copies of the source code to third parties upon request, shall reside in the author(s). Such authors hereby grant to the university a nonexclusive, irrevocable, fully paid-up, royalty-free license to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform and display such Original Works of Authorship for any purpose in any territory without limitation.
Where ownership of copyright in an Original Work of Authorship or rights of reproduction and distribution resides in the university pursuant to this Copyright Policy, all faculty, staff, employees, students, consultants, and others authorizing Original Works of Authorship for or on behalf of the university shall fully and promptly cooperate with the university and take such actions and execute such documents that, in the opinion of the Provost or the Provost’s designee, are reasonably necessary to perfect and conform the university’s copyright in Original Works of Authorship under this policy or to grant the specified rights of reproduction and distribution to the university.
3. Copyright Revenues
a. Net Licensing Revenues received by the university through fees or royalties pursuant to a license of Computerware which either implements a university-owned Invention or or is otherwise associated with a commercial software technology license from the university to a third party will be apportioned in accordance with the university Policy on Patents.
b. Except where provided to the contrary in other, controlling documents, Net Licensing Revenues received by the university through fees or royalties pursuant to a license of an Original Work of Authorship other than a commercial software technology license, and in which the university has acquired rights under this policy will be apportioned in accordance with subsection c of this Section 3 (Copyright Revenues) among the (i) author(s), (ii) the Unit within the university where the Original Work of Authorship originated, and (iii) the Provost’s Office and the university general operating funds.
c. The distribution of Net Licensing Revenue shall be:
i. To the Provost’s Office and the university’s general operating funds, sixty percent (60%);
ii. To the Author(s), a total of:
i. Thirty-five percent (35%) of Net Licensing Revenues upon the first instance of achieving $100,000.00 in Gross Licensing Revenues;
ii. Twenty-five percent (25%) of Net Licensing Revenues upon the next instance of achieving $100,000.00 in Gross Licensing Revenues; and
iii. Fifteen percent (15%) of Net Licensing Revenues thereafter; and
iii. To the Unit, a total of:
i. Five percent (5%) of Net Licensing Revenues upon the first instance of achieving $100,000.00 in Gross Licensing Revenues;
ii. Fifteen percent (15%) of Net Licensing Revenues upon the next instance of achieving $100,000.00 in Gross Licensing Revenues; and
iii. Twenty-five percent (25%) of the Net Licensing Revenues thereafter.
d. For purposes of paragraph c. above, in the case of joint authors, the direct royalty distribution designated for an author shall be to the joint authors as a group, to be divided equally among the authors, unless the authors provide the university with an alternative royalty distribution schedule agreed upon by them in writing. If the authors are associated with different Units, the royalty distribution to the Units shall be to the Units jointly, to be divided equally, unless the university is provided with a written alternative royalty distribution schedule agreed upon by the heads of the respective Units and the Provost or the Provost’s designee. In the event a Unit ceases to exist, the distribution of the Unit’s funds shall be determined by the Senior Vice President for Finance and Treasurer upon recommendation of the Provost or the Provost’s designee.
e. Notwithstanding the foregoing, authors and the university may negotiate a written agreement concerning the distribution of revenues. The author(s), a representative of the Unit, and the Provost or the Provost’s designee may negotiate such a written agreement, to be executed by such author(s) and the Provost or the Provost’s designee, encompassing the following:
i. The distribution of Net Licensing Revenues;
ii. The schedule for Net Licensing Revenue distribution; and
iii. Where applicable (especially to encourage the creation and development of non-print materials), advances against royalties.
f. Except as may be prohibited by law or any other controlling document, the university reserves the exclusive right at its discretion to contract with third parties for the exercise of any of its rights of copyright in an Original Work of Authorship. Revenues accruing from such agreements shall be considered part of the revenues of the copyrightable Original Works of Authorship and shall be distributed in accordance with the provisions set forth in this Section 3 (Copyright Revenues).
III. Miscellaneous Provisions
A. Employment Agreements
The university may require faculty, staff, or students to sign agreements implementing this policy as a condition of employment or as a condition of participation in a sponsored project controlled by a written agreement, as may be necessary to comply with the terms of such written agreement, or to establish record title in Inventions and/or in Original Works of Authorship owned by the university.
B. Copying of Works Owned by Others
Members of the University community are expected to avoid copyright infringement and to obtain rights and permissions before acquiring and using copyrighted materials of others.
IV. Additional Information
 By resolution 29 of the Faculty Senate on April 12, 2023, Provost approval on May 17, 2023 and subsequent approval by the Board of Trustees on June 2, 2023, upon adoption of this university Policy on Copyright, the Faculty Senate shall take steps to replace the Faculty Handbook module titled Instructional Media with a policy addressing Pedagogical Works consistent with the Faculty Senate Handbook Report.
Faculty Handbook section titled “Patent and Copyright”
Copyright; Author; Authorship; License; Licensing; Grant; Sponsor
Last Revision Date: N/A
Issued: September 7, 2023