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UK university policy approaches towards the copyright ownership of scholarly works and the future of open access

Elizabeth Gadd (Research Office, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 16 January 2017




The purpose of this paper is to consider how the open access policy environment has developed since the Rights Metadata for Open Archiving Project’s call in 2003 for universities and academics to assert joint copyright ownership of scholarly works and investigate whether UK universities are moving towards a joint copyright ownership.


The paper analyses 81 UK university copyright policies to understand what proportion make a claim over: IP ownership of all outputs; the copyright in scholarly works; re-using scholarly works in specific ways; and approaches to moral rights. Results are cross-tabulated by policy age and mission group.


Universities have not asserted their interest in scholarly works through joint ownership, leaving research funders and publishers to set open access policy. The paper finds an increased proportion of universities assert a generic claim to all IP (87 per cent) relative to earlier studies. In total, 74 per cent of policies relinquished rights in scholarly works in favour of academic staff; 20 per cent of policies share ownership of scholarly works through licensing; 28 per cent of policies assert the right to re-use scholarly works in some way; and 32 per cent of policies seek to protect moral rights. Policies that “share” ownership of scholarly works are more recent. The UK Scholarly Communication Licence (UK-SCL) should have an impact on this area. The reliance on individual academics to enforce a copyright policy or not to opt-out of the UK-SCL could be problematic. The paper concludes that open access may still be best served by joint ownership of scholarly works.


This the first large-scale analysis of UK university policy positions towards scholarly works. The paper discovers for the first time a move towards “shared” ownership of scholarly works in copyright policies.



The author would like to acknowledge the support and guidance of Ralph Weedon in designing this study, and the expert input of Professor Charles Oppenheim and Dr Jenny Fry on early drafts of this paper.


Gadd, E. (2017), "UK university policy approaches towards the copyright ownership of scholarly works and the future of open access", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 69 No. 1, pp. 95-114.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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