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Creating New Works

A university is a naturally collaborative working environment when developing new inventions and new work protectable by copyright. Prior to engaging in protectable work with others or under the umbrella of the UW, you might consider a checklist for rights in newly created works:

  • Who will own it?
  • Who will control how it is used?
  • What rights do developers have?
  • Who will secure rights to other content?
  • Who will assume liability for work?

Sorting out rights

Many works created at the University combine the creative efforts of several individuals and may use copyright elements from a variety of sources. How the relationship of the participants is managed and how rights to use existing content are obtained determine how the work can be used both within and outside the University.

You may find it helpful to use an asset inventory to make sure you have identified all the issues you need to know about when you create a new work.

Consider the future

It is important to consider issues of ownership, control, financial interests, attribution, and liability before a project begins so that rights are appropriately managed to support your intended purpose.

By considering how the work will be used and controlling how rights are established, you can ensure that you have the rights you need to use the work as you intend.

If you wait until the work is completed to consider rights, you may find that ownership is in dispute, or some individuals decide that you cannot use their contributions at which point you will have created a work that may be un-publishable because it may infringe on others’ rights.

Assess UW Interest

The University has a copyright interest in works that are: 

  • Funded by the University
  • Subject to a contractual arrangement
  • Developed with substantial University resources

If the University has an interest in the work due to special circumstances or contractual agreements governing the creation of a work, rights may need to be consolidated with the University. When you are starting a project, you should assess if the University will have any interest in your work.

A discussion of when the University has an interest in a work can be found in the UW-owned Works section. You may also want to refer to the UW Copyright Policy.

Establish Control of Copyrighted Work

For projects that involve the creative input of multiple persons in developing a protectable work, there will be someone who needs to: 

  • Manage rights
  • Determine distribution
  • Ensure goals are met

Projects seldom come together by themselves.

Someone has to come up with the idea for the project, secure the support for its creation, develop the framework for the project, gather the participants, and decide how the work will be used. This person will also have to manage complex copyright issues that arise when creating works with many contributors and elements.

It is important to identify who will take on this role in any complex project such as televised courses, websites, multimedia, software, or other large projects where many copyright works may be created.

Decisions needed

Some important questions or decisions to make at the beginning of any project are the following:

  • What is being created and for what purpose?
  • How will people join the project?
  • Will the work be made available to a limited audience?
  • Will the work be published (via the web or otherwise)?
  • Who will decide how and when the work is disseminated?
  • Can anyone use the work for any purpose?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the rights in the work?
  • Who will be responsible for maintaining and updating the work?

Answering these questions will help form the framework for clarifying rights and responsibilities of project participants and securing rights to use works owned by others in the project.

Clarify Responsibilities

Prior to creating new work with multiple contributors, it is helpful to clarify

  • Rights
  • Responsibilities
  • Project goals

With respect to copyright, it is necessary to determine who will be developing the new content for the project and ensure that the rights to that new content are consolidated with the party who will control how the work may be used.

Identify the author(s)

It is helpful to answer the following questions at the beginning of a project:

  • Who will author any part of the work?
  • If students, will the students be hired specifically to do this work?
  • If staff, is this task within their normal job duties?
  • If faculty, are the contributions directed or compensated by others?
  • Do all participants intend to form a single, merged work?
  • Will developers be using materials they have already created for another project?

UW copyright

If this is a University-owned or University-sponsored work, rights will be consolidated with the University.

A participation agreement as provided by UW CoMotion or other document explaining the special circumstances of the project should be implemented at the beginning of the project so that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.

Secure Permissions

Ensure you have rights:

  • To use copyright materials
  • For your intended purpose

If you are creating a work that involves content from a variety of sources, it is helpful to answer the following questions at the beginning of a project:

  • How will the project be used initially?
  • How might it be used in the future?
  • Will materials brought into the project be copied, adapted, distributed, displayed, or performed?
  • Do you have rights to use the material?
  • What is the scope of those rights?

Content created by others

If materials are brought into the project from other sources, you will need to ensure that you have obtained sufficient rights to ensure that you can use the new work as intended.

Permission for publishing

If you plan to publish the work, you generally should secure permission for your intended use.

You will need to describe your project and how the work will be used. You need to be clear when seeking permission that you obtain all the rights you need for your purpose. For example, if you intend to copy an entire work and display it on a webpage that may be viewed by anyone, you need permission to reproduce the work and publish the work. Obtaining permission to do just those two things does not give you permission to modify or adapt the work, so if you intend to recast the work, you need to ask for that permission as well.

Obtain Releases

You may need a release to:

  • Videotape people
  • Use photographs of people

Personality rights

As you create your work, remember that individuals have the right to control how their image, likeness, voice, or other identifying characteristic is used. These are called personality rights and may apply even if your use is non-commercial.

In determining the nature of the release, you should consider the following:

  • How will the project be used initially?
  • How might it be used in the future?
  • Will the image be used to endorse a project?
  • Will the image be used in a commercial venture?

Contact UW CoMotion if you have questions on what type of a release you need for your purpose.