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Intellectual Property Considerations

Intellectual Property Considerations: Who owns what I create?

Generally, copyright is owned by the creator or creators of a work (where “work” is defined as an “original work of authorship…fixed in tangible form of expression.”) However, the circumstances under which a work is created may dictate who owns the copyright. At the University of  Notre Dame, works created in the course of employment are considered "work for hire,” although faculty, staff and students generally keep their copyright for works such as textbooks, articles, papers, scholarly monographs, or artistic works, according to the university’s Intellectual Property Policy

A single work with more than one author may be considered a joint work, and multiple authors can also be associated with a single collective work, in which case each author owns the copyright for the material he or she contributed to it. Finally, individual copyrights can be transferred by the creator to another individual or entity. 

Copyright owners have specific, exclusive rights to the works they create. The three rights below apply to all types of works, but there are additional performance and display rights that apply to other types of work. For specific examples of how these three basic rights translate to various activities, click on the links below:

In addition, there are other rights that are often called out specifically in contracts, such as archival/deposit copies for institutional repositories, transfer of copyrights, right of first publication, grant of license, etc. The other pages in this guide go into more detail about these types of rights.

What obligation do I have to respect what others create?

Creators of works often build on the work of other authors or creators. For example, a book manuscript written by a faculty member may include copyrighted images, or a map in the public domain may have been transformed into a new work through creative annotations. It is important to realize which parts of your work may include the work of other third parties, and to understand your obligation to seek permission from the rights holder if the work you would like to use is NOT in the public domain, and you are NOT able to use one of the exemptions available to you under existing copyright law.

For more information on public domain resources, understanding exemptions, and other copyright issues, please refer to this page on Copyright.