... as it backs off claim to all lecturers' notes

July 23, 2004

Cardiff University has dropped proposed new rules forcing academics to hand over all lecture notes and research data when they leave for new jobs after an outcry from staff.

The rules would have subjected lecturers to the UK's most extreme controls on the intellectual property of academic work.

Cardiff deleted from its draft new employment contract, which is being prepared as part of a merger with the University of Wales College of Medicine, a section that stated that staff would "deliver up all property" they had prepared or that had come into their possession while at Cardiff.

In a missive to union members that produced 150 angry responses, the local branch of the Association of University Teachers said: "Do you think it is reasonable to be expected to hand over all your lecture notes and research data when you leave Cardiff and not retain a copy of this material?"

The draft contract also prompted a group letter of complaint from several professors in the social sciences department, who dismissed the proposals as unworkable.

A draft version circulated to staff said: "Upon termination of your employment, for whatever reason, you shall promptly deliver up to the university all property which may have been prepared by you or has come into your possession in the course of your employment with the university and you shall not retain any copies thereof. Title and copyright therein shall rest at all times with the university. You are referred to the policy on Intellectual Property RightsI" Ross Anderson, an intellectual property rights expert from Cambridge University, said the policy was the most extreme in seizing academics' work he had seen in the UK and equal to the worst case he had seen internationally.

One angry academic told The Times Higher : "I think the revenge should be that new lecturers should have a year without teaching to develop their teaching material - otherwise Cardiff would be stealing from other universities."

Another said the contract would have prevented staff leaving Cardiff because no university would take them if they could not bring lecture notes with them.

A university spokesman said: "The document you quote from is in a draft for consultation, and the paragraph to which you refer has already been deleted by the university following consideration by our various administrative divisions." He said the university was due to discuss the document with the AUT as The Times Higher went to press "and any report written before then will be out of date prior to its publication".

He said that any agreed new contract would apply only to new employees of the merged institution.

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