Rights plan all wrong 1

September 20, 2002

Sir Alec Broers claims that Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have more restrictive intellectual property policies than the policy he proposes for Cambridge University ("Cambridge outrage ill-founded", THES , September 13). This is false.

First, his proposals admit that the patent rights of faculty at MIT and Stanford are similar to the rights we enjoy at Cambridge, and which he wants to curtail.

Second, he proposes to appropriate our copyrights, apart from a narrow exemption for academic publications. His policy will grab the lion's share of royalties from books written by faculty staff such as A Brief History of Time . It will take ownership of lecture notes and thus of textbooks derived from them. The university will also oversee any academics who make software freely available.

Academics at Stanford and MIT own the copyright of all the works they create, with few exceptions. It will make Cambridge scientists a laughing stock if we have to ask permission before we can even publish a software patch.

Third, Sir Alec claims that his proposed rules are less restrictive than those at University College London. This is also false. Two years ago, UCL tried to grab all academic copyrights but the faculty fought them off. If Cambridge is to remain Britain's leading research university, we will have to do the same.

Ross Anderson
Reader in security engineering
Computer Laboratory, Cambridge

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