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UW Copyright Policies

UW’s Copyright Policy addresses:

  • Ownership
  • Control
  • Liability
  • Royalty Sharing

The University encourages the publication of scholarly works as an inherent part of its educational mission. In this connection, the University acknowledges the right of faculty, staff, and students to prepare and publish, through individual initiative, articles, pamphlets, and books that are copyrighted by the authors or their publishers and that may generate royalty income for the authors. Executive Order 36 – Copyright


The University of Washington’s Copyright Policy is a part of the University’s Patent, Invention, and Copyright Policy in Executive Order 36

The Copyright Policy applies to all sorts of copyright-protected works, including written materials, film and video works, audio recordings, graphic designs, databases, and computer software. If the primary means of control of software is trade secret or patent, then the Patent-Invention policy applies.

UW’s Copyright Policy is administered by the Vice Provost for Innovation. Information about the policy and copyright management in general is provided by UW CoMotion, as are most transactions involving copyright.

Summary of policy

The basic assumption of the UW Copyright Policy is that University faculty, staff, and students retain all rights in scholarly works, subject to the following exceptions:

  • The work is a “work for hire” under copyright law or the author was commissioned in writing by the University to develop the materials as part of the author’s regularly compensated duties;
  • The University’s staff, resources, or funding was used to develop the work;
  • Conditions restricting copyright privileges are contained in grant or contract funding.

Written agreements for clarity

The Copyright Policy encourages the use of written agreements when there may be questions as to whether works are University-owned, University-sponsored, or privately owned and controlled. The policy recognizes that some works will involve contributions that may involve more than one of these categories, and allows adjustments to the royalty-sharing policies to reflect these “proportional” circumstances. In any case, the University asserts royalty-free rights to University-sponsored works.

Students and copyright

The University does not assert rights in student work, unless the student is also an employee of the University and the work is prepared in the context of that employment.


Any questions regarding ownership or designation of works should be directed to UW CoMotion via one’s department head or unit director.

Further discussion of royalty-sharing, control, liability, and management of copyright works created at the University may be found in the UW Owned Works section of Executive Order 36

Conflict of Interest for UW Faculty and Staff

UW faculty and staff need to be mindful to any conflict of interest that may exist in relation to their employment at UW.

Conflicts may arise through

  • Financial interest
  • Business transactions
  • Outside professional activities

No employee shall have an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties. No officer or employee shall incur an obligation, of any nature, or engage in a business, transaction, or professional activity that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties.” Executive Order 32

Relationship to copyright

Conflicts of interest may arise when an individual has a financial or other interest in a company that is related to the individual’s work at the University. For example, conflicts may arise with respect to copyright or other intellectual property if a University employee is directly involved with a business entity that is also licensing intellectual property from the University. A conflict of interest does not mean the relationship cannot continue, however, appropriate steps must be taken to manage potential conflicts in these types of relationships.

Employee conflict of interest

All University of Washington employees are subject to the Ethics in Public Service Act, RCW 42.52. The basic principles of this act form the baseline of UW policy as outlined in Executive Order 32 and address conflicts of interest, improper use of state resources, compensation for outside activities, and gifts.

In matters where the possibility of conflicts exists, reference should be made to one’s supervisor, to the text of the Ethics in Public Service Act, and to the applicable federal regulations, particularly NSF Investigator Financial Disclosure Policy (GPM 510) 1995 and the PHSR, 42 C.F.R. Part 50 and 45 C.F.R. Subtitle A, and University of Washington Grants Information Memorandum 10.

Other helpful resources include UW’s Human Resources Department, the Washington State Executive Ethics Board, and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office

Outside Professional Work Policy

UW’s outside professional work policy addresses

  • Consulting
  • Use of university-owned intellectual property

“The first obligation of members of the faculty and staff is the preparation for and carrying out of official University duties. Faculty and staff who are full-time are expected to devote full-time effort to their institutional responsibilities. At the same time, the University recognizes that individuals, the University, and the state benefit from faculty and staff involvement in and support of outside organizations and industry. Such involvement provides individuals opportunities to disseminate expert information outside of the traditional university employment structure while simultaneously providing individuals additional experiences, augmenting their ability to carry out their University responsibilities. The University benefits in its ongoing relationships with the local, regional, national, and international communities it seeks to serve.” Executive Order 57

About the policy

The Outside Professional Work Policy for faculty can be found in Executive Order 57. The Outside Professional Work Policy for classified and professional staff can be found in the Administrative Policy Statement 47.3.

Relationship of the outside professional work policy to copyright

“Intellectual property in which the University may have an ownership interest may not be transferred by University employees while engaged in outside consulting. Intellectual property must be disclosed to the University pursuant to the University Patent, Invention, and Copyright Policy (Executive Order 57). Clauses in consulting agreements (including, but not limited to, clauses on confidentiality and ownership/transfer of intellectual property) must be consistent with the policy of the University and with University commitments under sponsored research agreements and shall be submitted for prior review by the employee when requesting permission to engage in outside consulting.”

Of particular interest to faculty engaging in outside professional work are the following sections within Executive Order 57:

Outside Consulting Activities

Involvement with Commercial Enterprise, Deeper than Consulting.

UW Compliance with the DMCA

In 1998 Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which amended the Copyright Act to “address important parts of the relationship between copyright and the internet.”

The University of Washington is committed to ensuring that copyrights in creative works are respected and used appropriately by UW faculty, students, staff, and visitors. UW policies require those using our computers or networks to respect U.S. and international copyright laws. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action or termination of access. 

The University does not monitor what individuals do while online, but does respond to all notices from copyright holders alleging inappropriate activity across our networks. If an individual chooses to host or exchange files unlawfully, that individual will be personally responsible for any consequences from that activity. Ignorance of the law is not a useful defense. The University strongly recommends that individuals using University of Washington networks and computers learn the rules and laws regarding copyright before sharing files online.