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Faculty Senate considers copyright policy change; discusses salary inequities
STANFORD -- Should Stanford routinely allow faculty and students to retain copyright for computer software and courseware they create, even if they use university equipment during the process?
The Faculty Senate will take up that issue again Thursday, April 15, following loss of a quorum during a discussion on intellectual property rights at the April 8 meeting.
The Academic Council's Committee on Academic Computing and Information Systems has asked the Faculty Senate to endorse a proposal that would treat computer software and courseware in the same manner as books, articles, poems, musical compositions and other creative works.
Stanford traditionally does not claim ownership of those items.
Civil engineering Professor Boyd Paulson, chairman of the committee on computing and information systems, told the senate that in the 1950s and 1960s, creation of computer-based products involved use of expensive computing resources owned by the university. These days, in contrast, most faculty and students have in their homes or offices computer equipment more powerful and far less expensive than the early mainframes.
As a result, the notion that creative work done on computers should belong to the university because of the equipment cost is obsolete.
Past efforts by the university to capitalize on software development have not produced sufficient earnings to meet staff costs of pursuing them, Paulson said.
The proposed change would add computer software and course to the "books, articles and other similar works" section (1.b.) in Administrative Guide Memo 76, Copyrightable Materials and Other Intellectual Property, which deals with individually produced creative works.
The recommendation is not intended to change sponsored project relationships, nor the provision covering institutional "work for hire relationships" of university staff members, Paulson said.
Following Paulson's presentation, business Professor Mark Wolfson asked why it was not appropriate for the university to partially own book copyrights.
Paulson said that Stanford is "quite generous in such matters compared to other institutions," and his committee feels movement should continue in that direction.
Genetics Professor David Botstein questioned whether Stanford would be "giving away the store" if it allowed copyrights relating to large sponsored projects to go to individuals.
The policy would not change current arrangements, in which the university or sponsor holds rights to such developments, Paulson said.
Discussing the role of courseware, civil engineering Professor Ray Levitt said faculty in the School of Engineering get the clear signal that creating courseware is considered teaching, not scholarly work. This is a problem at tenure time, he said.
Levitt said it is in the university's interest to encourage faculty, through royalties, to write software and courseware.
Paulson agreed. He said that Professor John Etchemendy of philosophy and the Center for the Study of Language and Information has written some of the "best-selling, low-cost courseware in the country." But Etchemendy prefers that the copyright remain with Stanford, thus keeping Stanford's name before the public.
The committee's recommendation makes it possible for the university to retain the rights if the creator prefers that.
By this time in the discussion, the senate's quorum had disappeared. Senate chair William Northway, diagnostic radiology and pediatrics, said the discussion would continue on April 15, at which time a "sense of the senate" vote will be taken.
Faculty salary inequities
In other matters at the senate, art Professor Al Elsen asked President Gerhard Casper about procedures for rectifying salary inequities among faculty of comparable experience and accomplishment.
He said that Stanford faculty are encouraged to seek better offers from other institutions, and use that as a bargaining chip with Stanford. "This encourages disloyalty to Stanford" by faculty who think they have been treated unfairly, he said.
Casper said it was "neither the policy nor practice" of the administration to recommend that faculty actively seek better financial offers elsewhere. But the term "administration" is very ambiguous, he noted, including deans and department chairs, as well as the president and provost.
While he can't speak for all the deans and department chairs, Casper said that "it is not the policy of the president or provost to do any of the nefarious things you think are university policy. I would view it as sinful behavior on the part of a dean," Casper said.
"Chairs and deans should make sure that faculty members who are extremely valuable be treated fairly in salary terms," he said. "Preventive medicine is the best salary policy I know."
English Professor Bliss Carnochan said he associated himself with Elsen's question. "One has the sense there is no recourse to salary-setting policies of the dean's office."
Casper responded that aggrieved faculty members have the right to complain to the provost "and eventually to me."
During a discussion of faculty "playing the market," education Professor Myra Strober said that method of addressing salary inequity is not available to everyone in the same way. Both male and female faculty in dual-career marriages have trouble if the market is the driving force in salary setting, she said.
Strober, who chairs the Provost's Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Women, said her committee is studying ways to address salary inequities without going to the market. Some faculty are reluctant to go over the head of their dean to the provost, she said.
Provost Gerald J. Lieberman closed the discussion by assuring faculty that they could appeal decisions of a department chair to the dean, then to him.
He added that if a faculty member comes in with a better offer from another institution, "It is always possible for the dean to reply: 'That's wonderful. Sorry we can't match it. Good luck at the other institution.' "
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