Why is Copyright so Complicated?

Our campus's Copyright Policy has different ownership categories


Do I own copyright for my work?
Is there a campus copyright policy I can consult?

Copyright ownership and attribution varies depending on the nature and purpose for which the work was created. Binghamton University’s Copyright and Fair Use policy has three main categories of works with defined ownership:

1. Copyrightable work produced by faculty and staff without the use of University services or facilities and free from any agreements administered through the University.

This includes the writing of scholarly books, publications, music, plays, computer software, and all other works. Copyright title in such cases belongs to the person creating the material.

For example: © 1996 Jane Doe

2. Copyrightable work produced as part of an individual's assigned responsibility as SUNY employee or with University support.

Where a faculty or staff member is specifically directed to create specified copyrightable work, the materials are deemed a "work for hire" and the copyright title will be in the name of the State University of New York.

Also included in this category is work produced using University facilities or services to complete or to market the work.

© (Date) State University of New York at Binghamton

3. Copyrightable instructional materials produced by an individual using University facilities or equipment.

Copyrightable instructional materials (e.g., syllabi, lecture notes, presentation graphics, learning activities, and assessment materials) produced by an individual at their own discretion in support of teaching activities, and not directed as a work for hire as outlined in 2 above, are normally considered the intellectual property of the individual.


Did you sign over copyright ownership to a publisher for a book or journal article when it was published?

If you signed a copyright transfer form the rights now reside with the publisher. Aren’t sure if you own the rights to an older publication? The best first step is to contact the publisher in question and ask them. Links to specific publisher ownership policies are on the SHERPA RoMEO website based at the University of Nottingham in the UK.


What about works where the publisher or owner can’t be found?

When an author of a work cannot be determined, it is considered an orphan work. Determining the status of an orphan work can be difficult. Columbia University Libraries / Information Service’s Office of Copyright has some advice, If You Cannot Find the Owner, for how to proceed with using orphan works in your research and teaching.

Back to the homepage for Copyright Demystified.


Questions? Contact the Libraries' Scholarly Communications Officer: Elizabeth Brown, (607) 777-4882.

This work is licensed by Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Last Updated: 12/3/15