Statement on Copyright Ownership of Online Teaching Materials Created During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As members of the University community prepare for the fall semester during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Office of the Provost provides this statement of clarification regarding the application of the Yale University Copyright Policy to teaching in online classroom environments.

The Yale University Copyright Policy affirms the principle under U.S. copyright law that copyright in a work created by a person acting within the scope of his or her employment belongs to the employer rather than the originating author. However, as is customary within the academic traditions of Yale and peer institutions, the University traditionally cedes ownership of “scholarly writings” to the faculty authors, except as otherwise specified by policy or written agreement.

The purpose of this statement is to clarify that “scholarly writings” under the Yale University Copyright Policy include instructional content and materials originally authored by individual instructors that are shared in the course of their online teaching. The University will continue to cede copyright ownership in such instructional content and materials, even in cases where digital versions are created using Yale-supported technology.

The policy clarifications in this statement have been decided by the Office of the Provost and will remain in effect through December 31, 2020. Any modifications or additional clarifications will be published on this page. Please see the frequently asked questions below for further detail.

For more information, please contact: [lucas.swineford@yale.edu].

Q. The policy clarification states that the University traditionally cedes ownership of “scholarly writings” to the faculty authors, except as otherwise specified by policy or written agreement. Can you please provide information about exceptions that could be specified by policy or written agreement?

A. There are four exceptions set forth in the Yale University Copyright Policy: (1) Assigned Tasks; (2) Outside Agreements; (3) Patentable Works; and (4) Commitment of University Resources.

The exception for Assigned Tasks states, in relevant part, that the “University will own the copyright to works created…by faculty members as part of an assigned task where the assignment explicitly states that the work will be owned by the University.” This policy clarification is intended to provide assurance to faculty and course instructors that the University will continue to cede copyright ownership in instructional content and materials created by them during the Covid-19 pandemic, even in cases where digital versions are created using Yale-supported technology and even when the creation of such content and materials may normally be deemed an assigned task.

The exception for Outside Agreements may apply in cases where “copyrighted materials are developed by an investigator in the course of sponsored research funded by an outside agency pursuant to an agreement approved by the Office of Sponsored Projects or the Office of Cooperative Research, ownership of the copyright will be determined by the applicable terms of the funding agreement.” While it is unusual for an outside funding agreement to determine ownership of instructional content and materials created by faculty, this policy clarification does not change or modify the provisions of any such agreements that remain in force and effect.

The exception for Patentable Works generally does not apply to faculty-authored instructional content and materials.

The exception for Commitment of University Resources will apply “[w]hen the University makes substantial commitments of resources to, or expenditures of resources for, a project, the University may be entitled to ownership of any works created.” The policy includes the following clarifying point: “The term ‘substantial’ is not meant to include ordinary use of Yale’s libraries, faculty offices, departmental office equipment or University owned personal computers. The Provost will determine whether substantial commitments exist in a particular case and whether the University ought therefore not to disclaim ownership of such works.” Accordingly, the Provost has determined that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the exception for “Commitment of University Resources” will not be applied for instructional content and materials originally authored by individual instructors and shared in the course of their online teaching, even in cases where digital versions are created using Yale-supported technology.

Q. If I record my Zoom class sessions to allow students to watch them after the live session, do I own the copyright in those recordings?

A. You retain full copyright ownership of instructional content and materials originally created by you that are captured in these recordings. Copyright in content and materials from students and other individuals that are captured in the recordings are owned by the contributors respectively.

Q. If I use Panopto or Zoom to create videos of my lectures for my students to watch asynchronously, do I own those videos?

A. You retain full copyright ownership in these videos.

Q. Can I delete all of the instructional content and materials I create for my online teaching?

A. You can delete the instructional content and materials that are stored on your computer. However, we strongly encourage speaking with the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning before you do so to explore whether it may be beneficial for you to retain the materials.

The Poorvu Center will soon provide information on its process for deleting instructional content and materials saved in cloud storage on the Zoom and Panopto platforms.

Q. Can the University share the digital materials I created, such as Zoom or Panopto recordings or a course site in Canvas, without my explicit permission?

A. The University will seek your explicit permission before sharing instructional content and materials created by you with others.

Q. Can I sell or license the Zoom or Panopto recordings I create to a third party?

A. This could potentially present issues of conflict of commitment or conflict of interest . If you have any questions, please contact the Committee on Conflict of Interest.

The Office of the Provost determined that faculty may take part in a university-wide faculty royalty-sharing program under which digital courses are distributed via the Coursera platform worldwide. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Poorvu Center.

Q. Can I grant free access to the content I create for my course to other educators or non-profit organizations?

A. Content that you originally created which is stored on your computer may be shared at your discretion provided that doing so does not present issues of conflict of commitment or conflict of interest . If you have any questions, please contact the Committee on Conflict of Interest.

The University will not be able to grant others access to instructional content and materials saved on Yale-licensed platforms. Agreements with these vendors generally limit access to Yale faculty, students and staff only.