Intellectual Property Policy
University, faculty share rewards of digital
to be that professors had an office on campus, a library card,
maybe a student researcher or two. If they wanted to give a lecture
off campus or write a book, the money earned from that was
considered a perk of professorship.
the rise of digital media, however, that situation has changed.
Columbia and other universities are investing millions of dollars
in technology infrastructure, digital resources and training, and
the opportunities for faculty to profit from providing content to
the new media world have mushroomed.
"With digital media, people are coming out of the woodwork
trying to be the portal for education. We don't want our faculty
members to be picked off," says Todd Hardy, executive director of
Digital Knowledge Ventures, a second technology transfer office
that was opened specifically to handle new media
clarify who owns what, last summer the University followed the
example of schools like Stanford and the University of Chicago and
adopted a comprehensive copyright policy.
"Knowledge is a very valuable asset. We want to make sure it's
used for Columbia's purposes and that people here and in the
Columbia community benefit from it," says Provost Jonathan Cole
"Faculty wanted clarification as much as the University did."
"Faculty have been interested in or concerned about the electronic
media side of things for some time," says Professor of History
Richard Bulliet. "I remember getting queries from a couple of media
companies myself and replying, 'I don't know. My university hasn't
articulated a policy.'"
Existing policies regarding intellectual property concentrated
on income from patents or licensing agreements resulting from
research done on campus. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act required each
university receiving federal funding for research to set up a
technology transfer office and use the income for education and
the past 17 years, Columbia's office has reviewed hundreds of
proposals from faculty and shepherded dozens of products - from a
video tour of Amiens cathedral to the glaucoma drug Xalatan - to
the marketplace, and brought millions of dollars back
for the less obviously commercial output like books and outside
lectures, professors have traditionally owned those rights. But
with digital media come higher stakes. Columbia did not want its
name put on Internet courses over which it did not have control,
we are not careful, if individual Schools or faculty members act as
'free agents' and neglect our collective need to maintain standards
of quality, we may do damage to the University as a whole," wrote
President George Rupp in a letter to the University community last
draft of the new intellectual property policy was circulated on
campus last spring by e-mail and posted on an internal Web site for
"There weren't a lot of major conflicts" over the policy's
provisions, says Raphael Kasper, associate vice provost for
research. "Most agreed that if the University puts substantial
resources into the creation of work, it should have some rights of
According to the policy, professors continue to own the rights
to traditionally published materials. In addition, they will own
the rights to new media content that was developed with the shared
resources generally provided to all members of the University
University ownership kicks in when content has been created
using resources "beyond the level of common resources provided to
faculty." The definition of a common resource versus a substantial
one was left deliberately vague to reflect the rapidly changing
area of new media itself.
"Nobody can anticipate the future," Bulliet says. "And what is
considered a substantial resource can vary within programs. One
department may find computer stuff completely eccentric and new and
fancy, and another may see it as completely normal."
Q&A is appended to the policy and will grow as cases are
presented to a copyright review committee that was formed with the
"Faculty still have free rein to give lectures, talks and
presentations, they just can't commercialize anything. They can't
do a Web course," says Michael Crow, executive vice
Kasper gives the example of the Brownfield Action
Project (CCT, December 2000), an interactive
project developed in large part by the Center for New Media
Teaching and Learning for a science class at Barnard, as something
that required substantial resources.
cases where the Uuniversity owns the intellectual property, 25 to
50 percent of the net profits are returned to the inventor, with
another 25-30 percent going back to his or her research.