Rights and wrongs 1

October 4, 2002

Sir Alec Broers ("Cambridge outrage ill-founded", THES , September 13) fails to address the key issue: where does the ethical and legal right in intellectual property lie?

No one (and no group) can legally claim property in ideas; what is at issue is authorship that can be carried out only by individuals and not institutions.

A teacher who produces a book is primarily an author, and that form of words is his or her intellectual property. To prove the contrary is impossible. The institution would have to show that the teacher had been contracted to produce a specific book on a specific topic. Teachers teach generalities such as history and not necessarily specifics such as the Tudors or Karl Marx. Nor could the institution prove the book was produced in "the firm's" time and on its premises.

There is an attempt by the institution to use its power to wrest rights away from teachers-as-authors, "allowing" them a "generous" financial return that will not be in their long-term interest when intellectual property rights have been sacrificed.

Broers's assertion that the policy will not harm creativity is mere soothsaying - this can't be proved. What it will do is destroy authorial rights.

Nigel Probert
Porthmadog

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