Ownership of student IP in Aussie games c

First of all this thread exists after suggestions made here http://sumea.com.au/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3018

What you will find here is a list of institutions (starting with those on sumea) with links to and quotes from their student agreements/IP policies. I will also note those without any information publicly available on their website.

My only purpose in doing this is to help people know what they are letting themselves in for before enrolling in a course.

If your institution has not made this information publicly available DON'T post it here as you could be in breach of copyright and perhaps your student agreement itself. I am looking into the legality of short quotes from such documents and will post what I find here too.

If any Kiwis want to link and link to and quote their instution's policies here that's fine by me, just I'm not going to do it.

Lorien Dunn
Master of Science candidate & Associate Lecturer
Dept of Computer Science and Computer Engineering
La Trobe University

lorien's picture

Also if the AIE have nothing to hide, then why didn't they send mcdrewski a copy of the document straight away, as he requested?

And if there is nothing to hide, then why say

quote: It's likely to happen shortly when we put up more material for next semester's intake.

Seems to me that this is likely to be time to clean things up.

Also I've never claimed the AIE has profitted from student IP. Perhaps you should find out a little more about them?

lorien's picture

I've also never claimed anyone has ever made a profit from Hail or my work on it.

the geeves's picture

Hmmm. Think i'm missing something. What's the advantage in owning the IP? All the work I created at uni was fairly lame, although I probably thought it was great at the time.

If most institutions use academic licenses wouldn't this prevent students (or the uni's) from comercialising their projects anyway? Couldn't the students re-create the project outside study with a full version of the software?

Is the IP the idea or the result of the idea? It's not like a patent is it?

My example would be the 'Destroy All Humans' game compared to the 'Mars Attacks' + 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' movies. This game's IP was developed by Pandemic but the idea has been there for years. Is there anything to prevent a student doing something like this?

lorien's picture

quote:Originally posted by the_geeves

Hmmm. Think i'm missing something. What's the advantage in owning the IP? All the work I created at uni was fairly lame, although I probably thought it was great at the time.

That's an odd question! What is the advantage of owning your own work? What happens if you go to one of these places when you are almost 30, and have already been a postgraduate student elsewhere? Is your work still going to be lame? Why do so many institutions make no claim of IP rights over students work? I'd suggest you look in open source land before saying student work is often lame, and I suspect the AIE would find this view rather offensive themselves just from looking at their website.

quote:
If most institutions use academic licenses wouldn't this prevent students (or the uni's) from comercialising their projects anyway?

I suspect most people/institutions havent even thought of that one yet. With source code, is it an issue if you write the code in an academically licensed ide, then port it to an open source compiler? It's not as if text files are a proprietry document format.

quote:
Couldn't the students re-create the project outside study with a full version of the software?

Not if they don't own copyright of their own work they can't. Edit: Actually that may be wrong, if you completely remake something in a "clean room" environment (means you are able to prove that the original work was not availble to you when you remade it), perhaps there is no problem. I'd want to talk with an IP lawyer before doing it though.

quote:
Is the IP the idea or the result of the idea? It's not like a patent is it?

My understanding (and I've assissted in writing a software patent and discussed this with patent attorneys) is that patent is used to protect intellectual property from being used without permission, copyright protects a work that's been created from being copied without permission. You can find some things about how institutions handle patents in the full versions of the IP policies given above.

quote:
My example would be the 'Destroy All Humans' game compared to the 'Mars Attacks' + 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' movies. This game's IP was developed by Pandemic but the idea has been there for years. Is there anything to prevent a student doing something like this?

Depends how close you get to the original you are basing it on. As a student you can do almost anything (fair use and educational use clauses in copright law). Whether or not you can display it anywhere afterwards is another matter entirely.

lorien's picture

I said earlier that imho the AFTRS agreement was pushing it. Here is the key piece I'm referring to

quote:
XVI.V
On termination of the course of study the student will hand over to AFTRS all original materials and copyright work referred to in XV.I above. After the termination of the course of study, the student shall not make use of any such materials or copyright works without the prior consent of AFTRS.

This seems to be saying you can't make any use of much of your student work without prior consent of the institution. IMHO not very nice at all, particularly for filmakers.

There was a very large fight between students and The Victorian College of the Arts that made it into the national media a while ago. The students won, and own their own work now. The agreement is at http://www.vca.unimelb.edu.au/admin/info/hr/hrdocs/IntellStat_pol.pdf and the relevant section is

quote:
Subject to compliance by the creator with all of his or her obligations under section 3.3(b) and section 5.1(a), the creator of copyright material will own and will have all rights with respect to copyright material to which this section applies. Where, by operation of law, the College would otherwise own copyright material the subject of this section, the College hereby assigns, subject to the creator complying with all of his or her obligations under section 3.3(b) and section 5.1(a), that copyright material upon its creation to the creator and the College will execute all documents and do all acts that may be necessary or desirable to give full effect to this section.

It also gives some reasons

quote:
Preamble
This document describes the policies and procedures regarding intellectual property generated by staff and/or students involved in research and/or teaching and learning. The objectives are:
i. To respect the moral rights of artists.
ii. To enable the VCA to foster free and creative expression and the exchange of ideas between staff and students.
iii. To establish a framework that supports the commercialisation of intellectual property developed through research, teaching and learning at the VCA.
iv. To establish principles and procedures for sharing income derived from material produced at the VCA.
v. To protect the VCA?s assets and imprimatur.
The VCA will assign to the creator, subject to particular assurances, the copyright and ownership of intellectual property in artistic and scholarly work, patents and inventions.
lorien's picture

I'd also like to make the point that imho education/training is an area where there should always be full disclosure rather than non disclosure.

mcdrewski's picture

quote:Originally posted by the_geeves

Hmmm. Think i'm missing something. What's the advantage in owning the IP? All the work I created at uni was fairly lame, although I probably thought it was great at the time.

...snip...

Is the IP the idea or the result of the idea? It's not like a patent is it?

IP (Intellectual Property) is a blanket term that doesn't have any legal meaning at all. It tends to be used to cover the legal terms of Trademarks (effectively logos and brands), Patents (inventions), and Copyrights (the right to control how your creations are used).

In general, you automatically have the copyright on everything you create. If you are employed by someone, your employer gets the copyright on everything you create. Patents and Trademarks are different in that they need to be applied for and registered.

As for what it practically means to not have copyrights, the short answer is that if you don't have the copyright to work you create, you may be unable to ever include it in a portfolio or resume; and you certainly are not able to make any commercial use of it, like include it in a game you make in the future.

Ideas are not copyrighted. Only creations ("works" in copyright terms) are copyrighted. The grey area of where ideas and actual creations meet is where lawyers love to play.

I recommend that everyone read up a little on the issue. [url="http://www.copyright.org.au/"]The copyright council of Australia[/url] has a number of fantastic, and short fact sheets.

Interestingly, no matter what, you *cannot* have your moral rights taken away, and one of those rights is the right to be identified as the author of a work. This means you may not have the right to print out your artwork in a portfolio (it's a criminal offense), but you can tell people it's yours. The only way to effectively prevent this is to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), which means you can be sued (a civil proceeding) for telling people what you did.

lorien's picture

I think probably the ultimate example of commercialisation of student work is the Linux kernel: not only are huge companies like IBM, HP and Novell using it and making products that use it, but we all use it every single time we use google.

It's even got Microsoft scared, they seem to consider it to be the main threat to their business.

I'm glad Linus Torvalds was able to do as he wished with his own student work, and I think we should all be- particularly those who want to work in film CGI (renderfarms almost all run Linux, and AFAIK almost all the major film studios in the US are giving artists Linux desktops to work on).

Thanks to the University of Helsinki and their Dept of Computer Science too of course.

lorien's picture

Don't you just love non disclosure agreements mcdrewski? [:)]

Grover's picture

This is an awesome thread. Thanks to all whom are posting - it really is a wealth of excellent info. And like I have mentioned elsewhere, can really help students make well-informed decisions about universities if they are concerned with IP ownership (re: copyright).

There is a great read about IP rights and NDA's amoung other things, on the IGDA business docs site: http://www.igda.org/ipr/whitepaper.html

I also vaguely remember reading a doc on IGDA that explains alot about the limitations of NDAs.. and the difficulty in upholding them (they are more often used as a means of muzzling and intimidation - and generally difficult to prove a true trade secret has been breeched). I'll try and track it down, I think its in the members section somewhere.

Its a pity we cant really have a thread covering this sort of subject material for employment in games companies. It would be nice to know what sort of contracts are being made available before applying for them? Sorry.. didnt mean to get side tracked.

lorien's picture

One point to add here: it occurred to me that afaik the reply from the AIE above is incorrect

quote:
For games students, in particular in the past, the AIE I.P. agreement has reflected the close working relationship between the students and local development studios.

You see the NDA I have specifically applies to the CertIV in Advanced 3D Modelling and Animation (doesn't seem to exist under that name in 2006, afaik basically this course http://aie.act.edu.au/courses/course_cert_iv.php ) as well as the Diploma of Computer Game Development. Perhaps they considered it a games course. I wonder what CIT (CIT outsource several courses to the AIE) think about their students signing an NDA... Do they know?

Dragoon's picture

I really don't know what the issue here is - at any university, by default, the university has IP rights to all your work at the university. Institutions such as the AIE are usually a lot more lenient with regards to IP.

mcdrewski's picture

dragoon, that was my initial thought too, but a quick check of lorien's post (the second one in this thread full of references) on the first page of this thread will show you that it's not the case... It surprised me too!

Dragoon's picture

quote:Originally posted by mcdrewski

dragoon, that was my initial thought too, but a quick check of lorien's post (the second one in this thread full of references) on the first page of this thread will show you that it's not the case... It surprised me too!

I just had a quick look through, most read similar to a normal work contract, in that ownership is not claimed only if the student is not a co-developer with any uni staff or resources. Most still own IP on anything you use their resources (equipment, staff, IP, etc) to develop. Ie no claim is made if the student developed the IP entirely on their own time, and own equipment without advice from uni staff (lecturers).

I know at least for the AIE, its done to prevent any legal issues arising between students working on a group project. They actively mention they would like students to develop their work commercially and are fully prepared to help them toward that end (down to computers, resources, publicity & networking).

TheBigJ's picture

Just thought I'd add this to the list.

The University of Queensland

quote:6. Ownership of Intellectual Property ? Students

6.1 "Student" means a person enrolled as a student of the University, or in a course or program of study conducted by or on behalf of the University, at the time he or she creates IP.

6.2 Unless there is specific agreement to the contrary, a student will own the IP that he or she creates while studying at the University.

6.3 Where students are undertaking research as part of a project between the University and an external sponsor or on a commercially-oriented project, the University may request an assignment of the student's IP, in most cases before allowing the student to participate in that particular project. This permits the University to comply with the terms of any contract it may have with the sponsor, and to be able to commercialise all of the IP resulting from the project. The assignment of IP does not include assignment of the copyright in the student's thesis or in publications authored by them and arising out of their studies. The University recognises that students must retain the ability to control the reproduction of the text of their thesis to ensure that their careers benefit from publishing the results of their work.

6.4 Where IP with commercial potential has been created jointly by a student and the student's advisor or other University staff, the University may also request the student to assign their interest in that IP (except copyright in the student's thesis) to the University.

6.5 If a staff member is also enrolled as a student and the subject matter of his/her study is also the work for which the staff member is employed by the University, the University as employer will own any IP the staff member creates in his/her course of study.

6.6 Where students have assigned their IP to the University they are entitled to be treated in the same way as staff for the purpose of sharing in commercial benefits, including financial returns, from the commercialisation of the IP. In determining financial returns, the University will take the following into account:

1. the degree of intellectual input from the advisor, other University staff and third-parties;
2. the nature and extent of any University or third-party IP accessed or used by the student; and
3. the nature and extent of any use a student makes of University facilities.

lorien's picture

It would be SO nice for me to be able to put the thing I signed up on sumea... The differences between ALL the uni arrangemets (even the worst) and it are rather amazing.

No can do [:(]

spudbog's picture

if uni or training schools had access to commercial licensing, would that help with the whole IP issue, and really how often do you see a student work go on to a commercial product, IP is the least of my worries, people should be more worried about fine print for short film comps, once its entered they own the work, in some cases. OR it can stop you from entering other comps.

lorien's picture

quote:Originally posted by spudbog

if uni or training schools had access to commercial licensing, would that help with the whole IP issue, and really how often do you see a student work go on to a commercial product, IP is the least of my worries, people should be more worried about fine print for short film comps, once its entered they own the work, in some cases. OR it can stop you from entering other comps.

I think you might have missed the some of the points of this thread, but those are good points about competitions.