Loyola University Chicago

Office of Research Services

If you think you've produced a copyrightable work under a grant...

Copyrightable works are, under federal copyright law (U.S.C. Title 17, as amended by the 1976 Copyright Act), original works of authorship that have been fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. These works include:

  • Literary works, such as books, journal articles, poems, manuals, memoranda, tests, instructional material, databases, bibliographies;
  • Computer software, which in addition to being copyrightable, may also be patentable;
  • Musical works including any accompanying words;
  • Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, including photographs, diagrams, sketches, and integrated circuit masks;
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works such as videotapes; and sound recordings.

Copyright law does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. In addition, you can’t copyright names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.

It is not necessary to register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office; simply creating the original work and “fixing” it in tangible form is sufficient to establish copyright. It is highly recommended that you put a copyright notice (the symbol © followed by the date and the name of the copyright holder) on all copies of the copyrighted work. Registration is recommended for highly valuable works; it adds proof of copyright ownership and aids you in fighting copyright infringement.

Copyrightable works produced under externally-funded grants or contracts are usually subject to the terms of the particular award(s) under which the work was produced. Federal grants have standard terms that allow the grantee to retain copyright while giving the government a nonexclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to reproduce, translate, publish, and dispose of the material and to authorize others to use the work for government purposes. Federal contracts and non-federal awards may have similar or quite different terms depending on the nature of the project.

Often an external award is made for the specific purpose of generating data and/or reports that the sponsor intends to use for its own purposes. In these instances, the grant or contract terms may specify that these deliverables will be owned by the sponsor, though the appropriate Office Research Services (ORS) will try to negotiate language that gives the investigator rights to use the underlying data and to publish scholarly papers based on the funded research. Typically this right will be qualified to exclude any proprietary information pertaining to the sponsor.

ORS will never accept terms of an agreement that constitute an unwarranted abridgement of academic freedom, particularly the freedom to publish. It is, however, standard practice to allow sponsors time to review proposed publications and to make suggestions for changes—or even to require changes if proprietary information pertaining to the sponsor is found in the proposed publication. Another reason for delay is to give the sponsor a reasonable length of time to file for patent protection if the proposed publication discloses a patentable invention that was made or reduced to practice with sponsor funds. In an extreme case, the Federal government may have a legal or contractual right to withhold permission to publish if a paper discloses information pertaining to national security or a public health emergency. And finally, it is common in multi-center clinical trials for the sponsor to control publication of the findings by the individual site investigators, within reasonable limits.

For additional information specifically related to copyrights on material produced by Loyola faculty under externally-funded grants, see the University copyright policy. For other copyright resources, click here. For information on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, click here.

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