Columbia Digital
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Enhancing Education in the 21st Century: Three-Part Strategy Brings Columbia Digital Media to Campus, the Public and the Marketplace

Columbia's Progressive Copyright Policy Protects Scholars Rights, Preserves University's Core Values

In response to the digital learning revolution, a new University copyright policy was passed by the Columbia Trustees in June 2000 after it was developed by a faculty committee and unanimously approved by the University Senate. The full policy can be accessed from the Provost's website at

What follows is the Preamble to the Columbia University Copyright Policy:

The central mission of Columbia University is to create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge through teaching and research. The community of scholars at Columbia has determined and established norms and values for the conduct of scholarly and scientific work that have evolved over the long history of the University.

Faculty at the University must be free to choose and pursue areas of study and concentration without interference, to share the results of their intellectual efforts with colleagues and students, to use and disseminate their own creations, and to take their created works with them should they leave the University.

This copyright policy is intended to maintain those traditional norms and values that foster, in various ways, the open and free exchange of ideas and opinions. In this regard the policy formulated here follows a basic tenet of the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors:

Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free expression.

The ongoing revolution in the use of information technology for the production and dissemination of knowledge enables members of the University community to create new forms or types of scholarly works, to communicate with current audiences with new types of materials, and to reach new audiences. The dramatic changes in information technologies and the ways in which they are employed provide an occasion to examine and clarify policy for copyright of works of scholarship produced at the University. This copyright policy statement delineates the rights and responsibilities of the University and its faculty, employees, students, and other members of the community.

By longstanding custom, faculty members hold copyright for books, monographs, articles, and similar works as delineated in the policy statement, whether distributed in print or electronically. This pattern will not change. This copyright policy retains and reasserts those rights.

The use of new media technologies has changed the process of creation of intellectual works. Some of the resources (physical, financial, and human) needed to employ the new technologies are shared resources, provided by the University for the common benefit of all members of the University community. But, in many cases, the use of new media technologies requires increased involvement by the University in the form of financial support, expert services, equipment, and other facilities beyond the base level of support and common resources provided to faculty.

Columbia will hold rights in copyright to works of authorship that are created at the University by faculty, research staff, and others and that are supported by a direct allocation of University funds, are commissioned by the University, make substantial use of financial or logistical support from the University beyond the level of common resources provided to faculty, or are otherwise subject to contractual obligations.

In those instances in which the University holds rights, faculty members can use the works involved for noncommercial purposes.

This policy recognizes that ownership of intellectual property and the sharing of economic returns from the licensing or commercialization of that property are two related yet distinct matters. Even when intellectual property rights are held by the University, revenues from new digital media and other property should be shared among its creators, including individual faculty, researchers, departments, schools, and the larger University. A description of the precise mechanism for distribution of revenues received from the intellectual property is appended to the policy statement and follows guidelines that have worked effectively for the sharing of revenues from patents.

Any beneficial returns to the University should be used for the common good in furtherance of its mission. Any share of revenues from intellectual property returned to the University should be invested visibly in the teaching and research enterprise of the University to seed new initiatives, enhance quality, and support quality academic programs including those that are not capable of reaping significant returns from their own created works.

This policy also is intended to strengthen current protection of the reputation of the University. Columbia's name deserves careful nurture and protection. As a general principle, the name of the University is not the property of any individual, department, or School. When the University's name is associated with a work of scholarship or other educational materials such as courses, the interests of the University and its community of scholars are affected and the University must exercise quality control with respect to the use of its name. This is particularly true when intellectual property is created for use by other educational institutions or by for-profit organizations, including development of extensive courses to be offered on-line. Faculty members, deans, and other members of the University community who create courses or digitized content for other universities or for profit-making entities should be certain that all new collaborative agreements with outside entities receive approval of the University's President, who with regard to such agreements acts on behalf of the Trustees through the Offices of the Provost and Executive Vice Provost.

This copyright policy contains elements that intersect with other, existing policies at the University, most notably those that address conflict of interest, conflict of commitment, and disclosure of activities by members of the University community. The copyright policy does not replace those existing policies; rather it is meant to complement them.

It is inevitable that this copyright policy and its implementation will require interpretation and review. A standing committee, appointed by the Provost and including members of the University faculty and administration and a student officer, will be formed to provide such oversight and adjudicate disputes.

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