Universities are disregarding the rights students have to publish their work under the law

Posted on Aug 12, 2019

Australian universities grant students’ intellectual property (IP) ownership for the work they create and by extension, owning this work grants students the right to make the work public and exploit it for economic gain.

Intellectual Property Policies gives students ownership to the work they create

All Australian universities have IP policies in which students are prescribed ownership of the work they create (unless otherwise stated) and all these IP policies achieve the same intention, that is, to give students copyright to the work they create during their studies.

An example of this is Deakin University’s Intellectual Property (Students) Policy which states:

(5) Subject to contractual and any collaborative arrangements that provide otherwise, the University acknowledges that students own the Intellectual Property subsisting in their work.

The Act allows students to publish their work and essentially control it as they wish. Copyright is an essential property right, that protects the expression of ideas and the use of works by authors of work such as students. Since students own copyright to work they create at university, they also have moral and economic rights in the work under the law.

Below is an extract from the The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Part III, Section 31) that prescribes authors of literary work, in this case ‘student publishers’, exclusive rights:

(1) For the purposes of this Act, unless the contrary intention appears, copyright, in relation to a work, is the exclusive right: (a) in the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, to do all or any of the following acts:

(i) to reproduce the work in a material form;

(ii) to publish the work;

(iii) to perform the work in public;

(iv) to communicate the work to the public;

(vi) to make an adaptation of the work;

In short

Universities IP polices and the Australian Copyright Act make it clear that students have the legal right to publish their work and benefit economically from its creation. Any restriction by a university that prohibits students from publishing their past work can be considered a violation of student rights under law and policy.

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