Intellectual Property Policies
IP03 Courseware (Formerly RA17)
Policy Steward:Senior Vice President for Research >
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Penn State recognizes that information technology provides valuable new tools through which University personnel can enhance learning for residential courses and extend programs and courses to new students at a distance. The University strongly encourages the involvement of University faculty and staff in computer-based and computer-assisted instruction and in the development of computer-based instructional materials. The purpose of this courseware policy is to provide incentives for the involvement of University personnel in courseware and courseware module development while also protecting the University’s interests in its educational programs and in controlling costs to students.
This document focuses exclusively on the University’s instructional intellectual property policy for courseware. Patentable software developed for courseware purposes will be handled under existing University policy IP01.
Courseware: For the purposes of this policy "courseware" is defined as a substantially computer-based package of content, assessment materials, and structure for interaction that permits a course to be taught without requiring physical access to a student. In other words, it is an entire course, fully transportable, minus the specific discussions that may occur between faculty and student or among students within a specific offering of the course.
Courseware modules: For the purposes of this policy a "courseware module" is defined as computer-based or substantially computer-based materials intended to enhance or supplement a Penn State residential or on-line course.
- Courseware modules are intended to enhance or supplement, but not replace, traditional classroom instruction.
- It is anticipated that the goal of a substantial fraction of courseware modules will be to provide modest enhancements to existing and evolving courses and that much or most will be provided at no-cost or at the cost of distribution (that is, without royalties) to students in Penn State courses.
- Examples of courseware modules include digitized lectures, demonstrations, or experiments, computer-based or partially computer-based textbooks, software applications, or other instructional materials and course enhancements that support classroom lectures but are not integrated into complete courseware products.
Courseware and courseware module development must be consistent with the primary obligations of University personnel to teaching, research, and service to the public.
Conflict of interest and/or commitment can occur when University personnel develop courseware and courseware modules for personal financial gain rather than for the benefit of their teaching responsibilities at Penn State.
- The sale or use of courseware or courseware modules in areas that substantially compete with Penn State educational programs is not allowed without prior University approval.
- Where necessary, mechanisms whereby potential conflicts will be avoided shall be set forth in a Memorandum-of-Understanding (MOU).
- Requests for approval shall be signed by the University personnel involved in such activities, and forwarded by the appropriate Dean to the Vice President for Research who shall have authority to provide final approval.
The Vice President for Research, in consultation with the Chair of the University Faculty Senate, will appoint an advisory committee for courseware to monitor the effectiveness of the policy, to recommend updates as necessary, and to provide guidance for other courseware issues (including appeals) that may arise from time to time. The committee shall consist of five (5) faculty members representing a variety of disciplines, and members shall be appointed annually for a term of one year. Members may be reappointed for a maximum of three consecutive terms, but will be eligible for reappointment after a one year hiatus.
Directed works are those created at the specific direction of a University unit for the University’s ownership and use. Courseware or courseware modules will be deemed University-directed Works if they are created pursuant to a written agreement between the faculty member or staff member and the University unit or if the work is considered University-directed by the standing policy of the unit.
Employees in staff positions should clarify with their supervisors as to whether a particular project should be considered a University-directed work as part of the employee’s normal duties. In cases of University-directed courseware or courseware modules, the University will own the copyright. Even in the cases of University-directed works, the Penn State author(s) will be granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use the materials for their own limited purposes outside of the University. Rights of authors are subject to University policies on consulting activity and other activities external to the University, as well as to unique contractual obligations related to the production of the instructional materials.
- University-directed works include, but are not limited to, courseware and courseware modules development specifically assigned or required as part of regular teaching duties.
- The development of University-directed courseware and courseware modules may also be initiated by University personnel who desire financial support or assistance from the University, through the individual’s academic department, college, or an administrative unit, for courseware development.
- The University retains ownership and has legal responsibility for University-directed work and will oversee any publication of University-directed courseware and courseware modules.
- Control of University-directed courseware and courseware modules shall rest with the developing department or program.
- A written agreement between the University and the author(s) stating the scope and goals of the work should be signed at the start of the development process.
- The agreement should also establish the extent to which materials may be used in derivative works published outside the University and will also formalize the relationship with authors outside the University (if any) and the procedure for the use of existing materials.
- Should the materials be distributed beyond the University's programs, the author may be eligible to receive reasonable royalty payments consistent with University policy IP04.
In some cases, University personnel may initiate the development of courseware and courseware modules independent of specific direction by the University. The author(s) of these materials will own the copyright. However, for works within the scope of the author’s University employment, the University will be granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free right and license to use the materials for instructional purposes within the University. Rights of authors are subject to University policies on consulting activity and other activities external to the University, as well as to unique contractual obligations related to the production of the instructional materials.
- Whether the work is undertaken for compensation or otherwise, the author has the responsibility to disclose the work to the author's department head/division head or Dean/Campus Executive Officer at the beginning of the development process.
- The University will accept legal responsibility for the use of University personnel-initiated courseware and courseware modules in University programs; legal and financial responsibility for all other uses will rest with the author.
- Control of University personnel-initiated courseware and courseware modules used in University programs shall rest with the department or program that exercises the University’s non-exclusive, royalty-free right of use, in consultation with the author.
- The sale or use of University personnel-initiated courseware and courseware modules developed by Penn State personnel in circumstances that substantially compete with Penn State educational programs is not allowed without prior University approval.
- The University will not otherwise interfere with the author’s use of the courseware and courseware modules, and the author may arrange for non-competing use outside the University when this does not represent a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment. To that end, sponsoring academic units are encouraged to obtain a Creative Commons license for the materials.
- When exercising its non-exclusive, royalty-free right and license to use the work, the University will ensure that proper credit is given to the author(s).
- It is anticipated that the goal of a substantial fraction of University personnel-initiated courseware and courseware modules will be to provide modest enhancements to existing and evolving courses and the University will work to provide such works to students at no cost or minimal cost to the student.
- The author may receive reasonable royalty payments for University personnel-initiated works used in Penn State courses consistent with University policy IP04.
For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research.
Other Policies may have specific application and should be referred to, especially:
HR91 - Conflict of Interest,
IP01 - Patents and Copyrights (Intellectual Property)
IP04– Royalty Payments for Course Materials, and
IP06 - Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurial Activity (Faculty Research).
Effective Date: January 7, 2013
Date Approved: September 14, 2012
Published Date: January 7, 2013 (Editorial changes- November 19, 2015)
Most Recent Changes:
November 19, 2015 - Editorial changes. Title changes FROM "Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School" TO "Vice President for Research."
Revision History (and effective dates):
- October 25, 2013 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
- January 7, 2013- Policy moved from the Research Administration section, formerly named RA17 - Courseware. Revised and renamed Policy IP03 - Courseware.
- January 1, 2010 - Editorial changes. Title changed FROM "Senior Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School" TO "Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School," to reflect position changes, effective January 1, 2010.
- November 8, 2006 - Editorial change - changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research.
- June 24, 2005 - Addition of a paragraph in GENERAL, authorizing the establishment of an advisory committee for courseware to monitor the effectiveness of the policy, to recommend updates as necessary, and to provide guidance for other courseware issues. A link to the corresponding Copyright Agreement was added as well.
- October 5, 2001 - New Policy.