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The new copyright policy proposed by University Provost Robert Barchi at last week's meeting of the Board of Trustees represents a shift from the historic view of copyright in academic institutions.

The policy lets faculty pursue innovative work without concern that ownership of the work will go to their employer -- the University -- even if the work is peripherally related to a faculty member's official role.

The policy also would also deal more equitably with situations where the University will retain the copyright on a faculty member's work, splitting the revenue produced by the copyright fairly with between the University and the originator of the work.

The proposal recognizes that in the modern, Internet-charged economy, abstract ideas have as much or more value as concrete inventions.

The plan prepares the University for a future increasingly based on information and intellectual property. It frees faculty to explore information-based ventures like distance learning. It frees the flow of productive information by eliminating confusion as to a work's ownership.

It's good to see the University moving early on this issue, proactively establishing a policy before theoretical concerns become actual problems. Penn's policy will help set the tone for other universities that also need to address the issue.

This proposal is a positive move which prepares Penn for an information-oriented future. We urge that the proposal be adopted by the Trustees.

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