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

Author : Elizabeth Gadd


Considers how the open access policy environment has developed since the RoMEO (Rights Metadata for Open Archiving) Project’s call in 2003 for universities and academics to assert joint copyright ownership of scholarly works. Investigates whether UK universities are moving towards joint copyright ownership.


Analyses 81 UK university copyright policies are analysed to understand what proportion make a claim over i) IP ownership of all outputs; ii) the copyright in scholarly works; iii) re-using scholarly works in specific ways; iv) 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. Finds an increased proportion of universities assert a generic claim to all IP (87%) relative to earlier studies.

74% of policies relinquished rights in scholarly works in favour of academic staff. 20% of policies share ownership of scholarly works through licensing. 28% of policies assert the right to reuse scholarly works in some way.

32% 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. 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. Discovers for the first time a move towards ‘shared’ ownership of scholarly works in copyright policies.