Copyright - Software, Data and Digital Content
These FAQs are based on policies and practices at UCLA and more generally University of California and are relevant to any original works of authorship developed at UCLA, including journal articles, textbooks, other books or scholarly works, short stories, poems, case examples, course materials, lecture notes, musical compositions/arrangements and recordings, lyrics, architectural drawings, software, visual works of art, sculptures and other artistic creations.
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Defining Copyright and Ownership
What kind of works are eligible for copyright ownership?
Copyright protection is automatic for any “original work of authorship” created by a university author and “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” Examples include journal articles, textbooks, other books or scholarly works, short stories, poems, case examples, course materials, lecture notes, musical compositions/arrangements and recordings, lyrics, architectural drawings, visual works of art, sculptures, software and other artistic creations, among others, regardless of the medium. Copyright, however, does not protect mere facts or ideas. To learn more about copyright generally, visit the UC Copyright website at http://copyright.universityofcalifornia.edu/.
What is a “Scholarly & Aesthetic Work” and who owns it?
As defined in UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy , a “Scholarly & Aesthetic Work” is a work originated by a designated academic appointee resulting from independent academic effort. Ownership of copyrights to scholarly/aesthetic works generally reside with the designated academic appointee originator, unless they are also sponsored works or contracted facilities works, or unless the designated academic appointee agrees to participate in a project which has special provisions on copyright ownership as further defined by Section V.C. of UC’s 1992 Copyright Ownership Policy. Please contact TDG at email@example.com with any questions.
What is an “Institutional Work” and who owns it?
Except as otherwise provided in the UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy, the University shall own all copyrights to works made (1) by University employees in the course and scope of their employment and/or shall own all copyrights to works, and/or (2) with the use of University resources. Please contact TDG at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
What is a “Sponsored Work” and who owns it?
UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy defines a sponsored work as a work first produced by or through the University in the performance of a written agreement between the University and a sponsor. Sponsored works generally include interim and final technical reports, software, and other works first created in the performance of a sponsored agreement. Sponsored works do not include journal articles, lectures, books or other copyrighted works created through independent academic effort and based on the findings of the sponsored project, unless the sponsored agreement states otherwise.
Ownership of copyrights to sponsored works shall be with the University unless the sponsored agreement states otherwise. Please contact TDG at email@example.com with any questions.
What is a “Personal Work” and who owns it?
UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy defines a personal work as a work that is prepared outside the course and scope of University employment (except for permissible non-University consulting activities) without the use of University Resources. Ownership of copyrights to Personal Works generally reside with the originator, but exceptions may apply. Please contact TDG at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
What is a “Student Work” and who owns it?
UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy defines a student work as a work produced by a registered student without the use of University funds (other than Student Financial Aid), that is produced outside any University employment, and is not a sponsored, contracted facilities, or commissioned work. Ownership of copyrights to student works generally reside with the originator, but exceptions may apply. Please contact TDG at email@example.com with any questions.
What is a “Commissioned Work” and who owns it?
UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy defines a commissioned work as a work produced for University purposes by individuals not employed at the University or by University employees outside their regular University employment.
When the University commissions for the production of a work, title normally shall reside with the University. Please contact TDG at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
How is revenue generated by Copyrightable works distributed?
The new UCLA policy governing the distribution of revenue received with respect to non-patented IP went into effect on July 9th, 2018 (please see http://www.adminpolicies.ucla.edu/pdf/955.pdf). Below is a high-level explanation of this new policy:
- Whether the new policy applies depends on when the license agreement generating the revenue was executed, for example:
- The new policy will NOT apply to income generated from licenses executed prior to July 9th, 2018. The previously agreed upon distribution will continue to apply.
- The new policy WILL apply to income generated from licenses executed after July 9th, 2018. This is true even when the UCLA Case generating the revenue:
- was disclosed to TDG prior to July 9th, 2018, or
- was licensed by TDG (pursuant to a separate license agreement) prior to July 9th, 2018.
- There is a $50K threshold that determines which distribution is used each fiscal year (e.g., July 1 to June 30) for any agreements subject to the new policy.
- Thus, distributions for a UCLA Case could be done in accordance with the patent waterfall one fiscal year, and the copyright waterfall policy the next fiscal year, and the patent policy the following fiscal year, etc.
- Determining whether the $50K threshold has been exceeded is determined on a per UCLA Case basis, NOT on a per license basis.
- Note revenue received with respect to a single UCLA Case may need to be divided between “pre-July 2018 license agt related” vs. “post-July 2018 license agt related”.
- If the $50K threshold is exceeded, then the FULL amount of the revenue received during that fiscal year is distributed in accordance with the patent waterfall policy.
- Policy exceptions: Where the facts warrant an exception to policy, there is a mechanism for authors to obtain one via VCR Roger Wakimoto. The request must be provided in the form of a written letter drafted and signed by all of the authors, wherein the letter details the exception requested and why it is warranted in such case.
Here is a scenario that may help explain this language:
If the fiscal revenue received with respect to a single copyright case in relation to a post-July 9, 2018 license is $49,000, then the $49k is distributed in accordance with the NON-patent policy waterfall.
If the fiscal revenue received with respect to a single copyright case in relation to a post-July 9, 2018 license is $51,000 (instead of $49k, for example), then the ENTIRE $51k is distributed in accordance with the PATENT policy waterfall (rather than the NON-patent policy).
What copyrightable materials do I need to disclose to TDG?
Any work created in the course of research performed pursuant to a contract to which the University is a party (e.g., federal, nonprofit or industry sponsored research agreement, collaboration agreement, etc.) needs to be disclosed to TDG. While it is not required that scholarly or aesthetic works be disclosed to TDG, disclosure would be required before such work is exploited for commercial use. Please contact TDG at email@example.com with any questions.
What are some examples of how copyrighted materials have been commercialized?
A broad range of works of authorship have been successfully commercialized by TDG. Some examples include: Software; Literary Materials; Educational Materials; Photographs
How do I disclose my work that I want to copyright?
All copyrightable materials should be disclosed to TDG using the Copyright Disclosure Form. Please see https://tdg.ucla.edu/ucla-researchers-innovators/submit-invention
How does the policy handle copyrightable works by multiple authors?
Section III.B. of the policy addresses copyright ownership involving multiple authors. That provision states:
Copyright ownership of jointly originated works shall be determined by separately assessing the Category of Work of each originator pursuant to Section III.A. above. Rights between joint owners of a copyright shall be determined pursuant to copyright law.
In other words, if there are multiple copyright owners for a jointly-created work under the policy, then the underlying rights for each joint owner will be governed by copyright law (unless an agreement among the joint owners provides different rights and obligations). For more information about joint copyright ownership, please visit the UC copyright education website’s page on “Joint authorship and collective works” at
How does this policy interact with UC’s Open Access policies?
UC’s Copyright Ownership Policy determines copyright ownership, while UC’s Open Access (OA) policies have no bearing on the copyright ownership determination. For example, the Academic Senate OA policy states: “This policy does not transfer copyright ownership, which remains with Faculty authors under existing University of California policy.” The copyright ownership determination arising out of this Copyright Ownership Policy does, however, have some impact on certain provisions of the OA policies. For example, the Presidential OA policy for non-Academic Senate employees outlines different procedures for obtaining waivers depending on whether the author owns the copyright in their scholarly articles, as determined by “the 1992 UC Copyright Policy or its successor.” Under the revised Copyright Ownership Policy, more academic authors likely will own the copyright in their scholarly articles, but this policy does not change anything in the OA policies themselves.
I get approached by online distributors of course content (e.g., Coursera, Khan Academy) to ask that I contribute my content. Can I sell my course content to third parties?
With the nature of educational instruction moving to remote learning, you may be approached by online content providers interested in licensing your course content. The University of California’s policies on Copyright Ownership and Ownership of Course Materials clarify who owns the copyright to original works created at UC and how the rights of ownership are allocated between the authors and the University. Ownership of Course Materials that constitute Personal Works, Student Works, Sponsored Works, Commissioned Works, or Contracted Facilities Works are defined in and shall be governed by the University of California Policy on Copyright Ownership.
Who can I ask for help understanding copyright at UC?
Please contact TDG at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.