Dean for Academic Affairs Craig McEwen presented a draft form of Bowdoin's new intellectual property policy to the College's faculty last week. According to McEwen, the new policy is largely an attempt to codify the College's current practices, replacing an old policy adopted in the 1970s.
The new policy comes after a faculty member expressed concern that a senior administration official had improperly used material from his grant proposal, raising questions about the College's policy at the time. However, in an article published in the Orient earlier this year, McEwen maintained that the new proposal was unrelated to the incident.
The primary purpose of the draft, according to McEwen, is to state the current practice of the College in terms of intellectual property rights. In general, the policy states that students and faculty own the products of their intellectual work.
"In terms of intellectual property rights it doesn't change current practice," McEwen said. "It talks about the exceptional cases where there may be some joint ownership with the College or sole ownership, and most importantly, it creates procedures for resolving uncertain cases."
McEwen cited three specific "distinguishing elements" that would render the work of a faculty member or student to be partially owned by the College. The draft of the policy states the College has interest in intellectual property if a project has to do with the basic functioning of the College, involves an identity interest of the College such as the name, logo, or reputation of the College, or makes substantial use of college resources.
According to the draft, using "substantial college resources" means that the student or faculty has used "resources to a degree or nature not routinely made available," including the use of labs, equipment, or funds, but not resources like computers or libraries.
However, the policy states that as a general rule, Bowdoin will not attempt to assert ownership of "traditional scholarly work." According to the draft, "traditional scholarly work is defined broadly to include pedagogical, literary, artistic, and creative works created by faculty and/or students."
"The basic assumption is that when you're doing traditional scholarly work that you basically own the product of that work," McEwen said.
After McEwen presented the draft in the faculty meeting, the faculty raised several questions about details of the proposal. Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center Susan Kaplan was skeptical about the application of the policy when applied to scholarly work done by employees of the college who were non-professors.
"This policy has all this stuff for faculty, but then it says intellectual property created by non-faculty college employees is owned by the College. That's a pretty absolute statement," Kaplan sad. "Curators writing up research or field work, the College has total rights to the work of those individuals and I think that that is extreme and is not really what the College should be doing and claiming."
Kaplan went on to express concern about how the draft policy, if finalized, could potentially have an effect on who the College hires.
"My concern is that we hire our staff quite often because of their expertise, and because of the breadth of their experience and interest, and I would worry that we will not be able to attract or retain those talented people with a policy like this," she said.
Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Scott MacEachern agreed with Kaplan.
"The draft as it reads is that when [non-faculty employees of the College] are doing traditional scholarly work?when doing archaeological work?that in some way all the papers would belong to the College," he said. "So, it would not be the sort of outcome that those staff members would want, and that's not the outcome that the College would want because the College has no interest, as far as I know, in the ownership in archaeology reports."
McEwen acknowledged these concerns, but said that nobody at the meeting presented any problems with the basics of the new policy.
"There were good questions raised on the faculty floor on some of the details of the proposed policy. We're working on those. There weren't fundamental questions raised about the policy itself, so I took that as good news," he said. Referring to the issue of the appropriation of scholarly work done by non-faculty employees, he said "that's not the intent of the policy, but it would appear to be the wording of the draft. It's one of the issues we're working on."
Once revised, the proposed policy will be submitted to the trustees for approval.