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Office of Sponsored Projects

Hinman Box 6210
11 Rope Ferry Road #6210
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: 603-646-3007
Fax: 603-646-3670

Copyright Ownership Policy


Dartmouth students, professors and staff routinely create new written scholarship, literary works, computer software, artistic works and create other items of copyrightable work. Copyright is a narrow form of intellectual property protection. It protects only the fixed expression of an idea, not the idea itself. The federal copyright law provides that most original works of authorship are protected by copyright automatically when they are fixed in tangible form. The holder of copyright to a work has the exclusive right to copy or perform the work or to publish derivative works based on the original.

Often issues arise as to the ownership of copyright. The following policy is based on Dartmouth's several prior policies dealing with this question, and also draws from the policies of other major universities that govern ownership of copyright.


Under copyright law, the copyright to works created by persons in the course of their employment belongs to their employer rather than to the individual creator. Therefore, absent other agreements or institutional policies, works created by faculty members in the course of their teaching and research, or by staff members in the course of their jobs, are the property of the College.

As a matter of fundamental principle, however, the College encourages wide dissemination of scholarly work produced by members of the Dartmouth community, including copyrightable works. Therefore, the copyright policy at Dartmouth — and most peer institutions — is that, except as provided for below, scholarship, literary works, computer software, artistic works and other items of copyrightable work created by faculty or other employees are deemed to be the property of the writer/developer, who is entitled to determine how the works are to be disseminated and to keep any net income they produce.

In recognition of this long-standing practice, the College disclaims ownership of works by faculty and staff, or others participating in Dartmouth programs including visiting faculty, whether in traditional or nontraditional forms, except in the following cases:

  1. Assigned Tasks. The College will own the copyright to works created:
    1. By faculty members as part of an assigned task, where the assignment explicitly states that the work will be owned by the College.
    2. By administrative staff members in any specialized field of work they perform for the College.
    3. By technical staff, postdoctoral fellows, and student employees in the course of any assigned duties other than research tasks performed in support of a project directed by a faculty member.
  2. Outside Agreements. Where copyrighted materials are developed by an investigator in the course of sponsored research funded by an outside agency pursuant to an agreement approved by the Office of Sponsored Projects, ownership of the copyright will be determined by the terms of the agreement.
  3. Special Circumstances. Where the College makes an extraordinary investment in the development of a copyrightable material (by way of either financial or resources commitment) or the College enters into a written agreement with the Developer(s) and that agreement makes provision for copyright ownership, the College will own the copyright of the works unless the parties agree otherwise. In all cases where the College owns the copyright of the works, it will share net income received from the commercialization or exploitation of the copyrightable material as provided in section 3 of this policy.
  4. Patentable Works. Where the copyrightable work is also patentable, Dartmouth College Patent Policy will apply to it.

Distribution of Income

Dartmouth College agrees to share with the originator(s) any net income received from commercialization or exploitation of College-owned copyrightable material. All expenses incurred by the College will be deducted from the gross income before any distribution of proceeds will be made. Unless otherwise agreed, the net proceeds will be shared with the originators on a 50%-50% basis, following the formula applied to patentable inventions.


It is the responsibility of the originator(s) to make prompt disclosure of any copyrightable materials that may, under provisions of this policy, be owned by the College. The disclosure should be made to the Technology Transfer Office, Hinman Box 6210, (603) 646-3027.

Dispute Resolution

The copyright policy will be administered by the Dean of the Faculty or the Dean of the appropriate professional school. Disputes concerning application of the policy shall be resolved by a review panel of three members: a representative of the originator(s), a person designated by the Treasurer of the College, and a third person selected by the Provost. The decision of the panel may be appealed by any member of the panel to the President of the College.

(Prepared by the Copyright Subcommittee of the Council on Sponsored Activities and amended after discussion with the Council on Sponsored Activities, September 27, 1994.)

Last Updated: 10/28/09