Assignment of copyrights to an educational institution and publishing contracts

Good to know

The assignment of their copyrights can be problematic for a teacher at an educational institution if the teacher would like to enter into a publishing contract with a publishing house for the publication of an article, but has also assigned the copyrights in the work to the educational institution, whether under the applicable regulations or the employment contract.

On the one hand, the teacher has to comply with the provisions of the publishing contract; teachers are usually not allowed to publish their articles somewhere else (obligation to desist vis-à-vis a publisher). And on the other hand, teachers are also bound by the regulations of the university or the provisions in their employment contract under which the university also has copyrights and can also decide about the conclusion of a publishing contract.In this case, the teacher will need the consent of the respective educational institution before a publishing contract can be signed. This often gives rise to conflicts of interest: the educational institution also wants to publish the work, but not in the media chosen by the publishing house, e.g. via sources that are freely accessible (in particular Open Access). However, the publishing house wants to have the exclusive right of publication. As the writer of the article, the teacher may want to be paid for the article. This conflict then has to be settled amicably with the educational institution and the publishing house, possibly by way of separate agreements. In individual cases, specifically at universities, this issue is governed by regulations, e.g. Art. 49 of the Staff Regulations of the University of Geneva (Règlement sur le personnel de l’Université de 17 mars 2009) on the assignment of copyrights to the University in the case of conflicts of interest with third parties, or § 15 para. 2 of the ‘Regulations regarding secondary employment, agreements with third parties and the exploitation of intellectual property within the context of university work’ of the University of Basel of 18 August 2004 on the sharing of any compensation relating to the exploitation of copyrights between the University and its employees.