In Keeping with Academic Tradition: Copyright ownership in higher education and potential implications for Open Education


  • Lindsey Gumb Roger Williams University
  • William Cross North Carolina State University



Most postsecondary institutions in the United States have a copyright and/or intellectual property (IP) ownership policy, outlining under various circumstances the ownership of copyright and IP generated by faculty, staff, and students (Patel, 1996). As awareness of open educational resources (OER) increases and both faculty and student creation of openly licensed materials builds momentum, a closer examination of copyright ownership policies and what legal and ethical implications they may have for open education is crucial. This study analyzed 109 copyright ownership policies at both public and independent two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions of higher education in the U.S. and surveyed facilitators of open education initiatives (generally librarians and related educators) at these same institutions (N = 51) to gather the perceptions and preferences of their copyright policies with respect to locally-developed OER.

The content analysis revealed that while the ownership of scholarly works overwhelmingly belongs to the person who created the work, variables such as unusual support and potential uses affect copyright ownership. These factors can be problematic for faculty who receive support through campus programs to create and share openly licensed instructional materials beyond their institution and are also problematic for students participating in OER-enabled pedagogy coursework and projects. While our survey showed that many in the open community indicate that they have great confidence in their understanding of these policies, that certainty is often pinned to a sense of shared values and unspoken assumptions, rather than clear legal rules or reliable policy.


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How to Cite

Gumb, L., & Cross, W. (2022). In Keeping with Academic Tradition: Copyright ownership in higher education and potential implications for Open Education. Journal of Copyright in Education & Librarianship, 5(1).