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The University of Akron Chapter |
American Association of University Professors

FAQ: Ownership of Faculty-Created Online Teaching Materials

By Bill Rich

If I record lectures and put them on WebEx or Brightspace for my students, who owns the rights to those recordings – do I or does the University?

Unless you receive “substantial support” from the University for the development of those recorded lectures or other online course materials (see below), they are your sole property, except that you may not use them to teach at another educational institution while you are employed at the University of Akron if such teaching would create a conflict of interest or of commitment.  If, after the campus shut down in March, you created online teaching materials, including recorded lectures, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent cancellation of in-person classes, and if you received only the kind of training and technical support that is routinely given by the University to faculty members who are starting to teach courses online, you own exclusive rights to those materials because you didn’t receive substantial support for creating them.  Training of the kind that is routinely provided to faculty members who are planning to teach courses online does not constitute “substantial support,” nor does ordinary technical assistance.  Certainly, the mere fact that you put the materials on Brightspace does not affect ownership of the materials.  If they were yours before you uploaded them to Brightspace, they’re no less yours after they are on Brightspace.

What does “substantial support” mean?

In general (for faculty research as well as faculty development of distance learning materials),

  • “Substantial support” means “University financial support in the form of money, facilities, professional technical support services, graduate assistant support, course release or other assigned time that exceeds the norm for a Bargaining Unit Faculty Member’s usual assignment or salary.”
  • “Substantial support” does not include
    • ordinary library services;
    • ordinary clerical or administrative support;
    • office or laboratory supplies and equipment provided within the normal scope of employment;
    • merely assigning a Bargaining Unit Faculty Member to teach a course that uses instructional materials that are provided to students electronically, including online; and ordinary computer network support.
  • “Substantial support” includes but is not limited to
    • course release or other assigned time (other than a Professional Development Leave); and
    • additional office or laboratory space, supplies, or equipment beyond the normal scope of employment.

Specifically, for the development of distance learning materials,

  • “Substantial support” includes but is not limited to
    • Provision of designated technical assistance, such as audio-visual department personnel or a qualified graduate assistant, to assist in the development of an online course, or the provision of specialized software purchased for a particular online project that exceeds normal University support for traditional courses; or
    • Support commissioned by the University by the provision of course release or other assigned time or other compensation to a faculty member, as an adjustment to normal assigned duties for the purpose of creating a distance learning course, that exceeds normal University support for traditional courses.
  • “Substantial support” does not include
    • Ordinary use of University servers and software platforms for the delivery of distance education;
    • Ordinary orientation to the operation of online instructional techniques and processes; and
    • Ordinary technical troubleshooting assistance.

What if I do receive substantial support?

If you do receive substantial support for the development of copyrightable distance learning materials, including recorded lectures,

  • Before receiving such support, you may negotiate a written agreementwith the University that allocates ownership rights, including royalties.  You have the right to have an Akron-AAUP representative present during those negotiations.  We will assist you if you ask us to.

  • If you do not negotiate such an agreement,
    o   You and the University both own the materials in equal shares.
    o   You have the right to use the materials in educational settings, even if you leave the University.
    o   But while you are employed at the University, you may not use the materials to teach at another educational institution.
    o   The University also has the right to use the materials.

  • If you and the University do not otherwise agree in writing, any royalties earned as a result of commercialization of the online teaching materials you developed are allocated as follows:
    o   First, the University recovers its out-of-pocket costs.
    o   Then, of the remainder, 40 percent goes to the faculty member; 10 percent is put in an account to support the faculty member’s research; 5 percent is put in an account to be used for college purposes by the dean of the college in which the faculty member has his or her primary appointment; 5 percent is put in an account to be used for departmental or school purposes by the chair of the department or director of the school in which the faculty member has his or her primary appointment; and 40 percent goes to the University.

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