Faculty Rights Tip: Intellectual Property: Who owns my online course materials?

These days many faculty members create electronic or online content for their courses. These materials are usually placed on the web in a variety of ways, often in course management systems like Blackboard or iLearn. Occasionally there are misunderstandings about who actually owns these materials once they’re placed online.

Article 39 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement ensures faculty members retain the rights to materials they create so long as there is no “extraordinary University support” in creating those materials. Faculty must sign a separate agreement acknowledging extraordinary support and agreeing affirmatively to share their intellectual property. Article 39 applies to faculty teaching traditional classes, online classes, and in Extension for Credit.

The online nature of course materials does not change the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In other words, electronic and online materials do not become the property of the University or any third-party vendor who supplies a service to the University. To be sure, providing the course management system, or paying your regular salary does not constitute “extraordinary University support.”

It’s important to note that our new Tentative Agreement with the CSU Administration allows CFA and CSU management to continue negotiations about Intellectual Property and Academic Freedom during the next two years, and we will keep members posted about any changes in the works. If you have concerns about your Intellectual Property, we encourage you to contact your CFA Faculty Rights representative immediately.

If you have questions about a faculty rights tip or would like to suggest a tip, please write us at cfa@calfac.org with the subject line “Faculty Rights Tip.”

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