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Yale University Copyright Policy

Yale University Copyright Policy

In the course of teaching, research and other intellectual and administrative activity at the University, faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral associates, students and others may create works that are protected by copyright. The federal Copyright Law provides that most original works of authorship are protected by copyright automatically when they are fixed in tangible form.

Copyrightable works of authorship include, among other categories, books, articles and other written works; musical and dramatic works; pictures, films, videos, sculptures and other works of art; computer software; and electronic chip designs. Works by Yale faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, postdoctoral associates and students may be found in any of these categories. As a matter of fundamental policy, the University encourages the wide dissemination of scholarly work produced by members of the Yale community, including copyrightable works.


Under the Copyright Law, the copyright to a work created by a person in the course of his or her employment belongs to the employer rather than to the individual creator. The law provides, therefore, that works created by faculty members in the course of the their teaching and research, and works created by staff members in the course of their jobs, are the property of the University.

It is traditional at Yale and other universities, however, for books, articles and other scholarly writings by a faculty member to be deemed the property of the writer, who is considered to be entitled to determine how the works are to be disseminated and to keep any income they produce. This tradition reflects the University’s commitment to encourage members of the Yale community to write and to publish what they wish. In recognition of that longstanding practice, the University disclaims ownership of works by faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral associates and students, except in the following cases:

  1. Assigned Tasks. The University will own the copyright to works created (i) by staff members or postdoctoral fellows or postdoctoral associates in the course of their assigned duties of employment, (ii) by student employees in the course of their assigned duties of employment, including duties as teaching or research assistance, or (iii) by faculty members as part of an assigned task where the assignment explicitly states that the work will be owned by the University.
  2. Outside Agreements. Where copyrighted materials are developed by an investigator in the course of sponsored research funded by an outside agency pursuant to an agreement approved by the Office of Grant & Contract Administration or Yale Ventures, ownership of the copyright will be determined by the applicable terms of the funding agreement.
  3. Patentable Works. Where a copyrighted work, such as certain computer software, is also patentable, the University Patent Policy will apply to it, notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of this policy.
  4. Commitment of University Resources. When the University makes substantial commitments of resources to, or expenditures of resources for, a project, the University may be entitled to ownership of any works created. The term “substantial” is not meant to include ordinary use of Yale’s libraries, faculty offices, departmental office equipment or University owned personal computers. The Provost will determine whether substantial commitments exist in a particular case and whether the University ought therefore not to disclaim ownership of such works. Where feasible, the Provost will make this determination before the work is created and at the beginning of the project, and will so inform the principal investigator or other responsible faculty member.

In any case in which there is a question about the University’s ownership of a work, the issue will be decided by the Provost in consultation with the Committee on Cooperative Research, Patents and Licensing and the Office of the General Counsel.

Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

Because students and postdoctoral fellows are in many cases not employees of the University, the Copyright Law would not automatically make the University the owner of copyright to their works. To assure fairness, the provisions of this Copyright Policy are made applicable to students and postdoctoral fellows, especially as stated in ‘Ownership: 1. Assigned Tasks’ above, as a condition of their enrollment or affiliation at the University.

Use of Income from University-Owned Works

Division. Any income which the University receives from the licensing, sale, lease, or other use of copyrighted works owned by the University pursuant to this Copyright Policy will be shared as determined by the University in its sole discretion.

The University will ordinarily share net income with the creator or creators of the work on the same terms as those of the University Patent Policy. For this purpose, net income means gross income less the University’s costs for securing the copyright, for defending it against infringement and for licensing or otherwise using the work.

Disposition of University Shares. The portion of net income that is not paid to the creator or creators of a work will be used as determined by the University in its sole discretion. The University will ordinarily use that portion of net income for the purpose of research or scholarly activity, with preference being given to the field in which the work was generated.

Assistance from Yale Ventures

A faculty member, staff member, fellow or student who has created and under this policy owns a copyrighted work, and who wishes to engage Yale Ventures for assistance in licensing or otherwise exploiting the copyright, may request such assistance from Yale Ventures. If that Office provides such assistance, all net income from its licensing efforts will be shared between the University and the creator(s) as provided in the Patent Policy.

Modification: Effective Date

This policy is subject to modification or revocation by the Corporation at any time, in its discretion. This policy is effective from the date of approval by the Corporation with respect to works created after that date and shall remain in effect until modified or revoked.

Updated Thursday, March 13, 2014