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With technological innovations making waves in intellectual property circles nationwide, the University Trustees discussed the University's copyright policies at their annual summer meeting last Thursday and Friday.

University Provost Robert Barchi presented a proposed overhaul of the University's current copyright policy to the Academic Policy Committee, which met on Thursday morning at the Inn at Penn.

"The time has come to look at issues related to copyright," Barchi told the approximately one dozen Trustees assembled at the meeting. "The biggest driver for this is probably distance learning."

The University's proposal, Barchi said, will affirm that creators own the copyright to their work.

"Instead of the work for hire doctrine, we are going to say fundamentally, the copyright belongs to the creator of the work," Barchi explained. "In this case, it would be the faculty."

This proposal means that faculty members would be able to keep profits generated by their copyrighted work.

The proposal includes three key exceptions to this principle. The University will hold the copyright for works for hire -- where a faculty member produces something under a contract with the University -- and research agreements where the agreement specifies that the copyright be held by Penn.

The University will also hold the copyright to works produced by faculty that "make substantial use of University resources."

For example, Barchi said that if a faculty member gets a grant from Penn or uses University taping facilities to tape a distance learning course, the copyright for that course will rest with the University.

Under the proposed policy, revenues generated by copyrights held by the University will be split with the creator in the same way profits are split under the University's patent policy.

The proposal also includes a conflict of commitment policy, which Barchi said establishes that "the primary commitment of the faculty is to the University."

Associate Provost and Nursing Professor Barbara Lowery, who helped develop the proposal with Barchi and Deputy Provost Peter Conn, said the proposed policy will mark a significant change from the university's existing intellectual property rules.

"I think if anything we'll be viewed as fairly liberal," she said at the committee meeting. "Our current policy is probably the most conservative in the nation."

Trustees Chairman James Riepe said he thought that the proposal made sense.

"From the outline of it, that I'm aware of, I think it's a very sensible, balanced proposal," he said.

"It's a highly delicate area in higher education right now because of the internet and all of the e-commerce kinds of related things," Riepe added.

Also at the annual spring meeting last week, the Budget and Finance committee approved the University's operating budget for next year. The budget includes approximately $3 billion dollars in funding.

Approximately $1.4 billion will be divided up among the University's 12 schools, while $1.6 billion was allocated to the Health System.

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