Jump to content

protecting your work- a question of intellectual property

Recommended Posts

I'm in sixth year in a graduate program where I'm expected to collaborate and share my work (as many of us are in PhD programs). There have been a couple of occasions now when my research (manuscript in preparation) has been used by my younger peers (either to inspire their research or actually used my research within their research) with no acknowledgement or credit given to my work. I don't know if I should take this to my advisor. Second, it gets me thinking. As graduate students, who has ownership of our ideas? What if we're working under our mentor's funding? And moreover, how do you protect your work when it's not published yet?

Any wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What do you mean 'no acknowledgement'?

I guess I am a bit confused. There have been several occasions where my supervisor has passed along my work (class papers, grant application, etc.) to other students for them to read. He's also taken some of my work to help write his own grants. Having your work circulated is good, and can often build networks. Is this what you're talking about? Or are you saying students are not citing your work?

As for who's it is...I am not sure, tbh. I have always been under the impression that if you're funded by your supervisor and/or the data is collected within your surpervisor's lab, it's theirs. Perhaps others can give you better insight!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If others are using your work, especially if it's directly used instead of just "inspired by", then you should be cited in the bibliography or acknowledged in some way, depending on the case. But, especially since you say "younger peers", this just might be inexperience of a new student. I think the right thing to do would be to discuss it with your advisor -- but I wouldn't come across as accusatory, just ask him/her for clarification on what is appropriate use of your work.

As for intellectual property (IP), it really does depend on your school and the grant(s) that fund your work. Your school should have an IP policy that outlines who "owns" the work. If you are funded by a grant, then you should find out this information too -- you might have to ask your advisor if you are being paid out of their grant.

However, in general, from the IP policies I've seen (we get an info package with this stuff when we arrived), for the relationship between the University and you, the student owns the IP of their work, but the University retains the right to use that work for their purposes (i.e. you own the copyright of your thesis, or other work, but they have the right to use it to train other students or in course materials etc.).

For example, my University says:

The University's policy on intellectual property (Report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Intellectual Property) states that the ownership of all types of intellectual property and for all members of the University should rest with the creators, unless other arrangements have been agreed to in advance for certain categories of employment, for certain types of funding, or by individual contract.

As well as

Students should be aware that the university retains a royalty-free irrevocable right to use for educational and research purposes any intellectual property created by a student in relation to his/her research activities.

However, this is just the agreement between the University and the student. If you work as an RA, you may be covered under a different agreement that depends on the terms of your employment. In addition, if you have external funding, that might comes with other stipulations on IP as well.

Finally, just because they may have the right to use your thesis to train other students, that doesn't mean that it's okay for others to use your work without attribution -- it just means that they don't have to pay a royalty or get your permission beforehand etc., I think.

Edit: Wanted to add that my University specifically says that the thesis in its entirety is fully and soley copyright owned by the student, even if the student used work from other sources (with appropriate attribution), and even if it's a manuscript thesis where the papers that make up the thesis are co-authored with other people (i.e. sections of the thesis may already be published elsewhere and copyrighted individually). It seems that copyright law will treat a compilation of work as a different entity than the individual pieces of work.

Edited by TakeruK
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.