by EMILY FEATHERSTON, News Editor
The faculty senate will vote Monday on a significant revision of Samford’s intellectual property policy.
The proposed policy, provided to the Crimson by business affairs and faculty welfare committee chairman Jennings Marshall, addresses Samford’s use of faculty and student work created at the university or using university resources It also covers ownership of patents for discoveries made by faculty, students or staff.
“We felt it was appropriate and timely to update our intellectual property policy to fit current times,” said Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Harry B. Brock, III.
Brock said the intellectual property policy has not been updated since the 1990s, and the university felt new language was needed to keep up with changes in technology and teaching methods, as well as the increase in research at Samford.
For students, the policy primarily addresses the university’s rights to use, display, distribute or perform any creative or scholarly work created to satisfy a university course credit. The policy would give the university a “nonexclusive, royalty-free license” to use student works for educational purposes.
“It’s only two sentences, but it’s pretty comprehensive,” chemistry professor and values council member Brian Gregory said.
For faculty, the policy would give the university irrevocable, royalty-free license to use works created for use in university-sponsored courses. This use includes in-classroom use and distribution; use in online programs; educational, promotional or administrative purposes; and to preserve or archive the work. While the policy allows rights to the underlying content to remain the property of the creating professor, the method and manner used to distribute that content belong to the university.
Under the policy, any discovery made during research done on or associated with the university that leads to a patentable invention would also belong to the university. Any revenue resulting from the patent would be divided between the creator and Samford.
The policy also covers “institutional works” produced by both students and faculty for “specific university purposes.” These works include university and student publications such as Seasons and Entre Nous. Under the proposed policy, the university would claim ownership of these publications and works.
“We feel it is a fair and reasonable policy for both the university and faculty and students,” said Brock.
However, several professors have expressed concern with the language of the policy as well as the implications.
Gregory said he feared the changes infringe on students’ rights and open a channel for legal litigation against the university. He said his concerns lie with the use of materials used to determine a student’s grade, such as a research paper, and if this use would be in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
“If grades are protected by FERPA, the method of determining that grade should be protected,” Gregory said.
Brock said, however, that students would be able to submit a formal request to the university that a specific work not be used, though the process of that submission is not detailed in the policy.
“The intent is not to use anything ‘unflattering’ to the originator,” Brock said.
Other professors are concerned that the policy changes will hinder student and faculty creativity, and create an atmosphere of distrust.
“Overall, the policy has the potential to change the climate of the institution,” communication studies professor Charlotte Brammer said.
Both Gregory and Brammer are also concerned that the policy would violate 17 U.S.C § 106, the fair-use guidelines of U.S. copyright law.
“Fair use is clearly defined for works in the public domain, but it’s tenuous at best for this,” Gregory said.
Brock said, however, that the policy stresses “use” in terms of educational purposes and to “show off” the good work created by students and faculty.
“We’re not looking to create conflict, but simply to preserve a privilege to use in an appropriate fashion,” Brock said.
The policy will go before the faculty senate tomorrow at their first official meeting of the 2014 fall semester. It was read for the first time at the April meeting after being approved by the business affairs and faculty welfare committee. Jennings said the policy was introduced by Brock and Assistant Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs and General Counsel Lisa C. Imbragulio.
After committee members expressed concerns, Jennings said Brock and Imbragulio allowed the committee to nearly rewrite the policy. Jennings said that the revisions were met with support, except from faculty from the McWhorter School of Pharmacy who showed continued concern for the patent policy.
Jennings also claimed that Robert’s Rules of Order, or the official operating procedures for legislative bodies, were violated when amendments to the policy were made after it left committee.
Senate chair and pharmacy professor Erika Cretton-Scott declined to comment on the policy to maintain impartiality before Monday’s meeting.
If the faculty senate approves the policy, it will then go before the entire faculty to be approved at large. After that, it will be have to be approved by the board of trustees.