On the possibility of openly publishing course materials at BYU

A good friend suggested to me yesterday that openly publishing my course materials may not be possible at BYU due to the Brigham Young University Intellectual Property Policy. Curious that such a restriction on my ability to openly share my course materials might exist, I explored the policy in more detail. Here’s what I found.

1. Course materials are Creative Works as defined by the IPP:

Intellectual properties are divided into two categories: technical works and creative works. Technical works include intellectual properties that are generally of a scientific, engineering, or technical nature – such as patentable or unpatentable inventions, devices, machines, processes, methods, and compositions; computer software; and university collections. Creative works include all intellectual properties not covered in technical works that are of an artistic, scholarly, instructional, assessment, or entertainment nature. Examples of creative works might include creative productions, such as works of art or design; musical scores; books, poems, and other types of scholarly or creative writings; films; video and audio recordings; and instructional materials, such as textbooks and multimedia programs. All computer software is included in technical works except that which is clearly developed for entertainment or for instructional purposes, e.g., electronic textbooks and textbook supplements, classroom and self-study tutorials. (Section I Para 1)

2. The university does not claim ownership of Creative Works when these are created with only nominal use of university resources.

The university retains ownership rights to all technical works but relinquishes ownership rights to the developer(s) of creative works when “nominal” use of university resources are involved in the production of the intellectual property. When “substantial” university resources are used in the production of creative works, however, the university will retain its ownership position, and income from the project will be shared with the developers. (Section IV Para 2)

3. “Nominal Use” of university resources is defined as things done within the normal scope of your employment at BYU.

Nominal use of university resources is use that is within the required activity of one’s appointment at BYU…. maintaining assigned levels of teaching, scholarship, and citizenship activities, so that anticipated performance in these areas is at the expected level. (Section IV.b Paras 1-2)

4. Course materials are explicitly mentioned in the Nominal Use section of the IPP.

Course or instructional materials may not be generated with the use of support units financed by the university (e.g., the Center for Instructional Design [note from David: this is now called the Center for Teaching and Learning]). Courses or instructional materials generated in the normal course of teaching, without such support, are allowed. (Section IV.b Para 3)

Conclusion: As long as I produce course materials myself, without additional funding or support from the university, courses and instructional materials I produce to support my own courses are created with only nominal use of university resources, and the university does not claim ownership. Therefore, as the rights holder, I will be able to continue openly licensing the materials I use in teaching my courses.


2 thoughts on “On the possibility of openly publishing course materials at BYU”

  1. Dave–

    Great observation. I think there’s a way around this in the policy. And or we can work together to make some changes in the policy to allow for the kind of open content publishing you have in mind. The policy is primarily focused on content that is broadly marketable (i.e. can bring in lots of revenue). As scintillating as your content is, it probably doesn’t fit that description. đŸ™‚


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