Intellectual property

April 9, 1999

Universities are beginning to realise the value of the intellectual property generated by their staff. Two developments indicate the change. First, they are no longer as willing to let staff keep copyright and patent rights in materials or inventions generated in working time. The Association of University Teachers has arrived with its demands a little late (page 7).

At the same time, universities are beginning to toughen up on commercial publishers. Where academics and universities agree is that copyright should be licensed not assigned to publishers. But more than that, publishers may be about to reap the whirlwind sown by the late Robert Maxwell, whose fortune was built on getting academics to pay to publish in his journals and then selling their work back to their employers. With electronic publishing and the new licences the Copyright Licensing Agency is developing for digital reproduction, the stage is set for universities to become electronic publishers managing their own peer review. If academics and institutions now make common cause, commercial publishers will need to do some rapid thinking.

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