Who owns the copyright of your creative works?

  • Search and download a copy of your country’s Copyright act. Check if there are provisions for the ownership of creative works produced in the course of employment.
  • Confirm whether your country is a signatory of the Berne Convention.
  • Consult your employment contract to see if there are any provisions relating to the copyright of works you produce during the course of employment.
  • Does your employment contract contain any non-disclosure clauses? This may impact on what you can write and publish in your personal capacity.
  • Your institution may have an intellectual property policy which determines the ownership of copyright. For example, in the case of tertiary educators, some universities and colleges may assign copyright ownership of research outputs to the author, even though they are produced in the course of employment. Typically, most education institutions retain ownership of teaching materials produced in the course of employment, but this practice may be different in your country.

Scan these documents to find out who owns the copyright of materials you create.

Generally speaking, initial ownership of copyright is vested in the creator / author of the work, except in the case of works made for hire. Works made for hire include creative works developed under contract or produced in the normal course of employment.

  • In common law countries, works produced in the normal course of employment, the employer is considered the first owner of copyright in the work.
  • In civil law countries which attach copyright solely to natural persons (i.e. where the law considers that legal entities do not have the capacity to create works), the initial ownership can only vest in the author(s). However, the employer, whether a natural person or legal entity, may acquire the rights by virtue of a contract.

Annotation - Does note-taking infringe on a professor's copyright on lectures?

This annotation activity is based on: Timmer, J. (2008, April 7). A class of copyright thieves? A lawsuit over lecture notes.
To reflect on the ethics of ownership of lectures.

In today’s world, where many academics teach part-time and spend considerable time and effort in preparing lectures, is it fair and reasonable for these educators to claim ownership of their lectures? Would it be fair and reasonable for an academic to take their lecture notes produced in the course of employment when changing jobs? Complete the following annotation task:

Share your thoughts on the ownership of ideas


Forum - Copyright and ownership of learner generated materials

Stimulus resources

  • Consider, for example, the copyright and intellectual property policies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the University can claim copyright and intellectual property rights over a student’s work where research is conducted from grant funds or carried out utilising equipment or facilities provided by the Institute.
  • Consider, for example, a competition where students of a marketing course submit ideas for the launch of a new product introduced as part of their coursework.
  • Consider, for example, an assignment in a course on entrepreneurship where the educator provides detailed feedback on a draft business plan submitted as an assignment. Would it be fair and reasonable to consider joint ownership (i.e. institution, educator and learner) of the intellectual property in the event that the idea is commercialised?

To discuss the ethics associated with ownership of a learner’s creative work reliant on inputs from the institution or educator(s).


Discuss the issues regarding ownership of intellectual property and copyright of student generated work. Join the forum on ownership of student work on

  1. Do you think there are grounds for institutions to assert copyright over student work? If so, provide examples and justify your reasons.
  2. How do you feel about others sharing copyright and/or intellectual property rights over your creative work as a learner?
  3. What are the impacts of ownership and copyright over learner work as they relate to the quality of learning?