Issues on intellectual property

The CCC: EED project activities have raised a number of issues around intellectual property. One important question for the production of OERs is whether students themselves are the owners of the copyright of their work or the university. There isn’t a single approach taken by universities to students’ learning activities and products.

At the end of 2006 JISC looked into the policies of 20 universities with regards to students’ intellectual property and found out a diversity of practices. In some institutions students owned their work, in others it was jointly owned and in the majority, it was the university who owned the rights to students’ work or who could claim ownership. Douglas Robertson has pointed out that the reason for these different approaches is that “[u]niversities are autonomous bodies, with different mixes of disciplines and courses, and with different attitudes and goals.”  So should we look for a common approach in the digital era? what should that approach be? Robertson rightly argues that “[w]herever possible, students should learn to handle their own ideas and foster their creativity. A university’s role is to nurture and support that process. […] Universities must seek to instil in our students a thirst for knowledge, and for making effective use of that knowledge. Seeking to control and constrain this process is unlikely to encourage enterprise and individual endeavour.”

Part of the new digital literacy agenda in higher education needs to focus on the issues around plagiarism, intellectual property, ownership and collaboration. Without a deep understanding of all these concepts and their implications they will not be prepared for functioning effectively and responsibly in a professional job.


Douglas Robertson “Intellectual property rights and wrongs” Research Fortnight, online issue 388, 18 April 12

JISC Legal Investigation into Student Work and IPR, Report 19/04/2007. Available at:

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