Who Owns My Work

Who Owns My Work: Copyright and Faculty Lecture Content

The University Committee on Copyright has received a number of questions about the ownership of faculty lecture materials including slides, videos, syllabi, and lecture content. Who has rights to reuse the content after it has been delivered by the creator? Do students have the right to sell this material or post it online for any reason? May others within the University reuse the material in the classroom or another setting (including distance classes) without permission of the original creator?

The Copyright Policy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill aims to balance the needs of the University to use employee work to fulfill its core mission with faculty expectations that they be compensated when their works are commercialized. In the context of the Copyright Policy lecture content (“pedagogical materials,” p.6) created by faculty or EPA non-faculty employees is usually considered to be Traditional or Non-Directed Work. The creator owns these materials, but the University receives from the creator “a non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty-free license to use the work for the University’s own education or research use.”

This means that another University employee may use the material for classes but the creator should be given credit. If revenue is generated from use of the material, the creator would keep the royalties, unless the work used exceptional University resources, has been designated a directed work, is jointly owned with the university, or has been created by several people over a long period of time. In those cases, royalties are normally allocated according to procedures detailed in the Copyright Policy.

Students do not have rights to post or sell materials from a class without permission from the original faculty member who created the material. For example, students do not have rights to upload content that faculty have created to online learning platforms, such as Course Hero. In addition, although students own their work, the Copyright Policy forbids them from selling classroom notes and laboratory exercises they have created.

Many situations involving ownership of faculty work are complex. If you have further questions about copyright and the classroom, please contact Anne Gilliland, Scholarly Communications Officer at Davis Library (Anne_Gilliland@unc.edu).