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Can University Students GPL Their Submitted Works?

Cliff posted more than 13 years ago | from the students-have-IP-rights-too dept.

GNU is Not Unix 242

Mdog asks: "I'm an instructor for The University of Illinois's CS 125 (intro to CS for CS Majors) class. I've been asking around the department regarding the legitimacy of students GPLing their submitted programs. Somebody pointed me to this document which talks about U of I policies regarding intelectual property. Having read the link, I'm still not quite sure what a students rights are in this situation, specifically part that reads that there exists a license which you implicilty agree to...: 'The minimum terms of such license shall grant the University the right to use the original work in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis.' Can I take this to mean: 'GPL compatible'? I'd be curious to know about anybody's experiences at other schools where this question has come up." I've seen several submissions where colleges take total posession of reports and projects created by students in their classes. Such a move would at least give the students some power in how their work is used.

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Partially public funded (4)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142686)

At public universities, this work is partially publicly funded so it should end up in the public domain, or at worst, with a BSD or other unobtrusive (Apache or X) license on it.

Isn't this obvious (2)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#142687)

The minimum terms of such license shall grant the University the right to use the original work in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis.

The GPL extends the right to anyone to use the original work for any purpose whatsoever on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exlusive basis.

Base it on GNU hello.c. (2)

buffy (8100) | more than 13 years ago | (#142688)

Most Universities do, in fact, have _published_ policies about all works belonging to the university or larger governing body.

You can, however, probably derive every project on GNU's hello.c, which would require the resulting work (as a derived work) be GPLed.

Not a lawyer, so YMMV.

Re:Uh... (2)

ryanr (30917) | more than 13 years ago | (#142689)

Sounds to me like he wants an answer for students that *want* to GPL their stuff. Not a bad tactic, actually. It ensures that they will have use of it later.

Create two sources (3)

JojoLinkyBob (110971) | more than 13 years ago | (#142690)

Could you create two names for your project, one that is school-specific, and another name for GNU purposes? Then the project takes on two lifes, one where it maintained by the school if they decided to use it for whatever, and your own personal one for open sourcing it on your own?

The Uni owns it (2)

Hagmonk (201689) | more than 13 years ago | (#142691)

In my experience, the university owns your stuff. By writing software for their courses as a student (solicited by them!), you are handing the rights over to them. Think of it as the university being your employer - you wouldn't expect your employer to allow you to GPL software they asked you to write? Yes, the distinction between public and private domain is important here, and if it seriously *mattered* (does it *really* matter?) then you could probably argue a good case for public funding resulting what it produces being publicly available. Then again, the quality of the work a uni produces can dictate the government funding it receives, and if other unis can just pilfer software that a postgrad has written ... Lots of food for thought, anyway. Luke.

From what you just said... (3)

dbarclay10 (70443) | more than 13 years ago | (#142692)

From what you just said;

The minimum terms of such license shall grant the University the right to use the original work in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis.

Yeah, according to that, the GPL would be acceptable... It gives the University the right to use the original work for anything, perpetually, without royalties. The non-exclusive bits means that the student could license the software to someone else, too, on completely different terms. Doesn't really apply to your question, since it's up to the student whether the University has an exclusive license or not. It's just saying that the University doesn't *require* an exclusive license.


Barclay family motto:
Aut agere aut mori.
(Either action or death.)

its like this.... (1)

BiggestPOS (139071) | more than 13 years ago | (#142693)

I was fully scholarshipped when i went to college, so does that mean I sort of "worked" for the school? And the programs I wrote were the property of my "employer"because I wrote them at their request and under their supervision? Not that I wrote anything groundbreaking mind you, but I'm sure lots of useful important things DO get written in post-graduate work, and it would be beneficial to know who exactly "owns" this work.

Re:Why would anyone (2)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142694)

There is a GPL'd Hello World [] ...

Read a little more closely next time (5)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#142695)

it's ethically wrong in my opinion, since the students apparently haven't given you permission to do so.
Try again; it is not the instructor placing the work under the GPL (how could s/he? only the author can do that!). The issue is that of the students placing their own work under the GPL.

With that out of the way, I don't see how the university could object. The GPL gives the entire world a perpetual, royalty-free and non-exclusive license to use the code. Unless the university has some other clause which restricts what the student may allow the rest of the world to do, the GPL would appear to be entirely compatible with the U's terms.

Umm... no... (1)

mszeto (133525) | more than 13 years ago | (#142696)

This would be like asking the company you work for you can GPL a function that you wrote.

I don't think this means anything to CSC1XX courses, though. Universities usually have strict policies stating that they own everything you do. Otherwise how would they make money? (other than charging outrageous tuition)

Re:Isn't this obvious (2)

ion++ (134665) | more than 13 years ago | (#142697)

yes, and even if the licenses does clash head on, there is nothing wrong with the author of the code releasing it under 2 different licenses.
One for the university with the university license, and one which the student puts on the internet with the GPL license.

Re:Isn't this obvious (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#142698)

The GPL extends the right to anyone to use the original work for any purpose whatsoever on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exlusive basis.

But a lot of universities won't accept work that was derived directly from another work. If I write a pre-compiling front end to an interpreter today, I am not allowed to use that front end in a compiler project.

GPL'ing the project does no one any good, at least at the undergraduate level. Now graduate-level projects may be more usefully GPL'd.

No one wants a hundred thousand GPL'd Hello Worlds.

Dancin Santa

Re:Uh... (2)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 13 years ago | (#142699)

legitimacy of students GPLing their submitted programs

The teacher is asking if it's legal for the students to GPL their own submitted works, because by submitting the works as a class project the students grant certain rights to the university. And even if it were the situation of which you speak, the very act of handing in the assignment is a granting of permission, under most schools' policies.

Next time, read the article twice instead of gunning for the first post.

How can it be a work for hire... (1)

Spamalamadingdong (323207) | more than 13 years ago | (#142700)

if you're paying them?

UIUC has good lawyers (1)

epaulson (7983) | more than 13 years ago | (#142701)

Ask them. They're really the only people's whose opinions count. They're also very quick to listen whenever they hear "computer program" - the dollar signs from Mosaic/Netscape are still in their eyes.

Be prepared to be laughed at, since really, what intro-to-CS project is anyone going to give a shit about?

Yeah right (1)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 13 years ago | (#142702)

We had a guy in our pro college who GPLed every last one of his submitted projects. Thank God. I sleep much better at night knowing that the school won't rip off the source to his Visual Basic hangman project and make a fortune off it.

I wish I were joking. He GPLed everything. It was all I could do to keep from switching to FreeBSD just to piss him off on licensing issues.

Easy way out (2)

fpepin (61704) | more than 13 years ago | (#142703)

Actually, there are a way that you could find a nice solution for that problem:
The GPL still allow you to license the work to someone else. License to the university however they want it, license to others with the GPL.

I'm sure you should be able put a notice on it that it's released through the GPL and that the University is granted additional rights to the work.

I'm not going into the technicalities of the GPL if it would allow it without that notice, I'm sure people with more knowledge than me will be posting that. But if you want to play it safe, just release it like that.

University of Texas (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142704)

At the University of Texas, we CS grad students are allowed by The University to publish our research code under the GPL. (Indeed, my research group is actively encouraged to do so by our advisor).

There is also an undergraduate software engineering class that requires you to do a team project, and the result of that is always put under the GPL. (One of the biggest challenges when I was the TA for that class was getting the students to understand that the couldn't just harvest the Web for code, images, etc., and publish the result under the GPL, or any other license for that matter.)


at my institution... (4)

woggo (11781) | more than 13 years ago | (#142705)

students own their homework and class projects, but if you're doing supported research, ownership gets much, much stickier. If a prof starts a new research project or gets a grant, the University will want at least part ownership of any patents/copyrights/etc. (presumably since they are providing the prof with an office and a salary and the notoriety with which to attract grant money). I know that many profs and students have carefully found ways around this (with and only with the aid of a lawyer), but it devolves into a huge Byzantine mess of red tape which anyone would want to avoid.

I would guess the situation is similar at most American public universities, but mine is a little more progressive than most in many other ways, so YMMV.

However, what in an intro to programming class could even be nontrivial enough to be covered by a license or copyright? There's a definite lower bound on the size of copyrightable software, and it's larger than most of the programs that most students write for intro classes. (Whether the code produced by intro programming students is worth disseminating is another matter which I'll leave to the trolls and cynics.)

University of Alberta (5)

yamla (136560) | more than 13 years ago | (#142706)

I checked on this while an undergrad at the University of Alberta [] . I was told, as an undergrad, I owned any homework assignments or other work that I submitted, though professors and TAs owned the questions themselves and also any comments they gave you.

Please note that this does not necessarily apply to graduate students. And it may well not apply to your own university.

Some people have pointed out that students never agreed that all their work should become property of their university. This is, of course, blatently false if (and only if) this is written down in the university code of conduct. I would imagine most universities state this.


Depends on where you build it.. (1)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 13 years ago | (#142707)

It may be a tough pill to swallow, but on who's machine you develop makes alot of difference -- If youre building code on servers provided by the University, then i'd say the University has a fair right to assert at least partial ownership over that material. After all, you were working on their systems--You don't own it, you don't lease it, and without them you'de have squat anyway.

The real world works the same way. My dad was an Engineer for Rockwell for 30 some-odd years...Whatever he designed became property of the company, obviously. I work at IBM here in Tucson--The code I write belongs to IBM. In both cases, the reason is the same -- The giant CAD terminal my dad used was provided by Rockwell International Graphics Systems Division. My workstation(s) are provided by IBM Corporation. We were merely being allowed to use them for the benefit of our respective companies.

Perhaps it would benefit you to think of the situation like that in the future--Whenever you sit down infront of a University computer system, just remind yourself of the fact that whatever you build is not necessarrily yours--Its property of the University, and there's really nothing wrong with that. If you want to release something under the GPL, don't use a box you don't own to develop it in the first place.

Re:Read a little more closely next time (5)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 13 years ago | (#142708)

only the author can do that!

Not true. Only the copyright holder can do that. Many universities require that they become sole owner of submitted works, especially with theses and the like. While the professor himself couldn't GPL the code in such a case, he could certainly lobby the presiding body of the university (ie, board of trustees or the like) to do so.

Your Answer (5)

Penrif (33473) | more than 13 years ago | (#142709)

4a: Ownership. Unless subject to any of the exceptions specified below or in Section 4(c), creators retain all rights to traditional academic copyrightable works as defined in Section 2(b) above.

4c: Student Works. Unless subject to the provisions of paragraph (a) or provided otherwise by written agreement, copyrightable works prepared by students as part of the requirements for a university degree program are deemed to be the property of the student but are subject to the following provisions:

4c 1&2 regard thesis work, which the University does take some credit in, seeing that it's the degree, basically.

Thanks for the document, I was about to start a similar search, I'm starting at UIUC in the fall.

Re:Partially public funded (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142710)

Uhm, yes, the public does. Let's list some obvious examples: 1) State schools are cheaper to in-state students 2) State-funded scholarships and grants 3) Federally-funded scholarships, grants, and deferments.

Re:its like this.... (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | more than 13 years ago | (#142711)

and it would be beneficial to know who exactly "owns" this work.

Yup...that's why you ask first. Once you've sunk money into a graduate program, it's really a little late (from your perspective), since the alternative is to pick up and go to a different grad school and waste more time and money. Though probably not effort, since you'll be working on the same thesis. Unless you're a glutton for punishment...

If you want your code to be GPLed.. (3)

ikekrull (59661) | more than 13 years ago | (#142712)

Link it with a library, or include some code that is itself under the GPL.

The university may then 'own' it, but they can't distribute it without being bound by the GPL.

And i doubt any university would go so far as to ban the use of GPLed code, unless you study in Redmond.

Re:Partially public funded (1)

Obelisk1010 (451553) | more than 13 years ago | (#142713)

Not true. Tax and other public moneys paid for my grad school plus a nice stipend that covered by books and apartment. Thanks!

WSU & UI (2)

TeknoDragon (17295) | more than 13 years ago | (#142714)

I know of a few projects here which have wound up in commercial venus. *Usually* a commercial org is sponsoring any major project, but many proejcts aren't and I've seen a few GPL ones. I believe that the student is free to publish their work in GPL, but that the university has just as much a claim to that work so they could release it under different licensing because it does in part belong to them.

Programs I Wrote (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 13 years ago | (#142715)

Often students are given an algorithm to implement. The professor wrote the algorithm, and they are just writing the code. In the cases of more advanced CS classes, they might be writing programs that are indeed revolutionary. I have considered licensing some of the software that I wrote for my more advanced classes. Some of this software either has no commercial or free equivalent, or in some cases, the equivalent is quite expensive. Most CS students will write something truly useful in college, though they will probably not replace their current systems with it (how many run the OS that they wrote their senior year?) some do, and may want to release this code to the public. The main important consideration being who owns it. IE, I probably can't release anything that I wrote in conjunction with a university research program. Universities license quite a bit of intellectual property, all of which was created by SOMEBODY. In some cases, releasing your student assignments could be equivalent to some dude from ID selling Quake IV cds, because he wrote the code.

Re:Partially public funded (2)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142716)

Uhm, no. If software is paid for by the public using taxpayer money, any taxpayer (which, in case you hadn't noticed, corporations pay taxes too), should be able to use that software for any means desired.

Re:Base it on GNU hello.c. (1)

veddermatic (143964) | more than 13 years ago | (#142717)

If you "derive" the work from the GPL hello.c, does this make your school work plagerism and / or illegal??

Another issuse is, as pointed out in another post, this is a PUBLIC (state) school... wouldn't one have to examine the "contract" students enter into upon enrolling into the course and / or university??

A private school may well completely and legally own anything you do in a class, but being an institution funded partially on tax dollars, does that mean that all residents "own" that code, a la .gov sites??

The big question is, how iron clad are the contracts you enter into when you become a student?? If you write a paper, do you own it, or does the school, and how does this changed based on public / private schools? How does this change based on the types of "intellectual property" you create in school? Can a college claim to own a painting a student made in Painting 101?? If not, then can they claim to "own" a computer program you wrote for CS 101??

I dunno, wondering if anybody does.

GPL is not a virus. (5)

Sodium Attack (194559) | more than 13 years ago | (#142718)

A common source of confusion among /.ers about the GPL is the misconception that the GPL applies to software.

OK, before you start laughing so hard that milk comes out of your nose, hear me out. Of course the GPL is about software. But it limits the actions of people (and people-like organizations, such as corporations, universities, etc.) This is important to understand, because it reveals the flaw in the GPL-as-virus analogy which is commonly used to explain the GPL.

Suppose I, as the sole author of a piece of software, distribute it under the GPL. This does mean that anyone who licenses it under the terms of the GPL, must also make any derivative works available under the GPL. However, it is important to note what it does not mean: it does not mean that if I make a derivative work, that I have to release that under the GPL. It also does not mean that I cannot license the same software to someone else under a different, non-GPL compatible license. (If you took the GPL-as-virus analogy too far, you might well believe that these latter two were not allowed. But that is not the case. Just because some copies of a program are licensed under the GPL, does not mean that all copies are magically infected.)

With the UI policy, you license any software you submit to UI under a non-GPL license. (It seems to me that the implied license described in the linked document is not GPL-compatible; it might be well within the university's academic mission to provide students with the compiled version of the program, but not the source code, something forbidden under the GPL.) This does not prevent a student from making the software available to other people under the GPL, but he has already licensed it to the university under a non-GPL license when he submitted the program.


The REAL Lesson seems to be... (3)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 13 years ago | (#142719)

If you're a student with a project to do, yet inspired to do something extraordinary, keep that inspired idea to yourself, even at the price of a good grade and whatever accolades or awards it may contribute to your portfolio. Do something more mundane, since your college would own it.

Gee, what a valuable lesson. I wonder if it's been patented yet...

All your .sig are belong to us!

This is simple, and obvious I think. (3)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 13 years ago | (#142720)

You said it right in the posting.

The university requires you (the copyright holder) to grant them (the university) a nonexclusive royalty free right to use the work however they want. Period.

It does not grant them 'ownership' of the data, it does not take your copyright away, it simply says they can do what they feel like with it once you give it to them, and you can't expect any compensation for it.

You are perfectly free to also release the code under the GPL (and the BSD license, and a proprietary one, and any other license you feel like, because the code is YOURS)

Yahoo? (2)

zpengo (99887) | more than 13 years ago | (#142721)

Unless I'm mistaken, Yahoo was developed as part of a computer science project.

I bet the university would have loved to bust out it's IP policies on Yahoo, but somehow I don't think it'd have any effect.

As a student? (2)

gregbaker (22648) | more than 13 years ago | (#142722)

As a student, I don't see any reason there should be any restrictions on how you deal with the copyright. The creation is yours and you can do what you want with it. I'm pretty sure the policy you've pointed to is intended for faculty and staff.

Even as a grad student, I had to sign a nonexclusive license to the Queen (in Canada, as represented by the National Librarian). The copyright remains in my name and if I want to OPL [] /GPL [] it, I can.

Staff and faculty have a more complicated arrangement because their research is technically a "work product" (further complicated by the fact that it's usually funded by the University, a granting agency or two and some private donors). If you ain't getting paid, I wouldn't worry about it.

Greg (5)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142723)

You'd like to think that, but that's not the way it works. Publically funded research (grants and such through the National Science Foundation) does not end up being in the public domain all the time. In some cases it does, but not in all. It's put into the public domain because of what the university decides to do with it, not because they *have* to. Mosaic is a good example. Publically funded, released with "copyrighted, but freely distributable for non-commercial use" on it. The university of illinois made a lot of money licensing it (not as much as they could have, but a lot).

Here's an actual policy. (2)

lindner (257395) | more than 13 years ago | (#142724)

My old school, the University of Minnesota, has it's own policy [] posted.

An interesting excerpt:

  1. Intellectual property created solely for the purpose of satisfying a course requirement is owned by the creator and not the university.

of course there are a bunch of other clauses there that can trip you up.. So best thing to do is ask your university legal department to clarify their policy before you turn in that homework...

Re:Depends on where you build it.. (1)

stuccoguy (441799) | more than 13 years ago | (#142725)

According to the document [] this is not the case with UI.

Persons using "University Resources Usually and Customarily Provided" which includes "ordinary access to computers and networks" retain copyright in their works.

The university only asserts an interest in these cases when the creation involves "substantial use of specialized or unique facilities and equipment".

Re:From what you just said... (2)

Sodium Attack (194559) | more than 13 years ago | (#142726)

The minimum terms of such license shall grant the University the right to use the original work in its internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive basis.

Yeah, according to that, the GPL would be acceptable

I'm not sure I agree. I can easily see that a professor might, as a teaching exercise, want to distribute a compiled version of a program, without making the source code available. This would be within the normal academic mission of the university, but would be prohibited by the GPL.


Re:Partially public funded (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142727)

I disagree. The possibility that the work was taxpayer funded gives us all the more reason to release it under the GPL. If a corporation (that paid taxes) desired to use the code they would certainly be able to do so under the terms of the license. Any one of us would be able to do so.

If it were released under another license we could be denied the right to any future improvements which were based on the original code. It is the original code that allowed the improvements to exist in the first place, we as taxpayers have a right to those.

Aside from the funding the work was still done by the student and their rights and freedoms should be protected above all else. Those who paid the taxes did so to contribute to the greater welfare of the people, what could contribute to that better than the GPL?

Re:Partially public funded (2)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142728)

Wow, who else have you blackmailed?

Work for hire (1)

Hyperbolix (214002) | more than 13 years ago | (#142729)

Unless something is created as a "Work for hire", you own it. IANAL, but the way this is layed out is "Its yours unless (A) you transfer ownership to another entity or (B) it was made as a work for hire". I'm pretty sure that by handing in a project one is not transfering ownership, simply releasing a free copy, no?
- John Byrne

Re:Depends on where you build it.. (2)

TotallyUseless (157895) | more than 13 years ago | (#142730)

Students pay to use the computers through various student fees. No, they dont have to pay hourly charges or pay everytime they use them. Usually schools charge what is called a student services fee, this basically is a charge for everything else you use at a school besides actual classes. So even if you never used the computers, you are still paying for them. just wanted to clear that small point. please move along (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142731)

I know, and other examples include AFS. This is a more ideal world I am describing :)

Cool! (2)

sachachua (246293) | more than 13 years ago | (#142732)

First, your students know about the GPL.

Second, they want to contribute code to the open-source community.

I'd say go for it! <grin> And be glad that you have other open source geeks in your class. =)

I guess you can check with your department regarding their official stand on this, as people on Slashdot can offer advice, opinions and thoughts, but can't authoritatively decide anything in your situation. (I think.)

It seems that the GPL is allowed, but again - check with the university, and hope your uni isn't draconian enough to reject such a nice thing. =)

Can of Worms... (2)

gavinhall (33) | more than 13 years ago | (#142733)

Posted by polar_bear:

This might open a can of worms at some institutions - one that sorely needs opening! It's ridiculous that a college/university can charge a student tuition and take possession of their work.

However, not all schools are created equal - many schools either do not have policies or they have more "liberal" policies that allow the student to retain rights over their work, albeit policies that require a student to allow the school to use the work.

I didn't major in CS, I majored in English/journalism - and at my school I retained my own rights to works that I created...though I had one professor that required classes to sign a waiver allowing him to use works created by his students.

If a school's policy were challenged, I wonder if it would hold up - especially if it's a policy that's not given to the student up-front when they apply to the school.

yes - it's non-exclusive (3)

Trepidity (597) | more than 13 years ago | (#142734)

The fact that they explicitly state that the license you grant them to use your work is non-exclusive means that you're free to also license others to use your work under other licenses (such as the GPL). If they had claimed an exclusive license to use your work, then you would not have been able to do so (as their license would be the only one allowed), but that doesn't appear to be the case.

So the short answer is yes, you can GPL your work.

Re:Read a little more closely next time (5)

norton_I (64015) | more than 13 years ago | (#142735)

Yeah, but right in the U of I guidelines it says:

1) In general, works of students remain the property of the student.

2) Work done for a graduate student thesis (ie, not classwork, but original research), software or otherwise is owned by the department, but may be given to the student at the discression of the department.

3) In any case, as a condition of receiving a degree, you implicitly give the university permission to use and distribute a "limited" number of copies of your thesis. (again, this is graduate thesis work, not classwork).

Occasionally, instructors will want to use your work in future years as an example, or framework for future projects. They always should, and usually do ask permission to do this. In this case, you would retain the copyright but give the instructor permission to use your work for teaching.

If your instructor provides you with a framework or skeleton code, you may own your modifications, but you don't automatically get rights to redistribute the combined work.

In short, if you are the sole author of your project, and want to GPL it and put it on Freshmeat, go ahead.

Re:Read a little more closely next time (1)

room101 (236520) | more than 13 years ago | (#142736)

Actually, it seems to me that if the university has the students consent to some clause that grants the university ownership, then the student has no right to allow others to use it. It is up to the university to allow or disallow usage of others (including the student?)

Thus, the GPL may grant rights to 3rd party individuals more rights than the university would like to grant (if the university owned the property, as stated above), thus the GPL would be too far reaching in this case, thus not compatible with the university's terms (in this theoretical case). (qed)

Do universities copyright student code? (1)

fullcity (108058) | more than 13 years ago | (#142737)

When I was in grad school, I released some code on our research project's web page. I was told to assign copyright to the code to the university. If I recall correctly, there was an accompanying license saying that anyone could use the code for anything as long as the copyright notice is preserved.

I note that one of my colleagues, whose grad-school software is more widely used, has kept the copyright to himself and licensed his code unter LGPL. (The project is GLUI [] , a portable UI toolkit for OpenGL programs. Google keyword: GLUI. Hi Paul.)

Re:The REAL Lesson seems to be... (1)

IanA (260196) | more than 13 years ago | (#142738)

haha. so witty. never seen the 'x is patented' joke before.

Re:If you want your code to be GPLed.. (2)

Sodium Attack (194559) | more than 13 years ago | (#142739)

No, please please don't do that.

If you write a program that is linked to a library which you have licensed under the GPL, or using someone else's code, which you are permitted to use under the GPL, you are now bound by the GPL with respect to that code.

If you subsequently license the program to someone else under a license other than the GPL--either explicitly or implicitly, as in the case here--you are the one who has violated the GPL.

If you are required to only distribute the software under the terms of the GPL license, but you instead license it to someone else under a different license, and they then take some action which would be in violation of the GPL, you, not they, are the guilty party.


Re:Isn't this obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142740)

Typically the university will have rights to the code written there. After all, it is developed on its own resources. Most universities will not have a problem with GPL on the condition that they share some of the same priviledges as the author.

This will typically only come to play if a profit is made. If you make money from it, then the university has rights to some of the money (you used university resources). If the university makes money off from it, you have rights to some of the money (your talent was used).

This does not apply when you are working under research money or are an employee of the university. That is, if another contract binds the work between you and the university (and possibly a third party), then the above statements are not applicable.

I am not a lawyer, though I once looked at the implications of my university research for commercial application (I am an anonymous coward, trust me...). Furthermore, each university may have a slightly different policy which you tacitly accept by attending the institution.

Re:Create two sources (4)

Webmonger (24302) | more than 13 years ago | (#142741)

Sure. But you don't even need two names. It's enough to release the project under two different licenses-- one for the university, one for everyone else.

Depends on the university you are going to (1)

wubc (450153) | more than 13 years ago | (#142742)

I graduate from University of Michigan last December and my professor in my software engineering class told the class any work we done belongs to us. Of course the university can argue that they provide the resources for you to get the stuff you designed/invented and the policy can change from year to year (depends on how the university).

that's why (2)

unformed (225214) | more than 13 years ago | (#142743)

you write a piece of code that infringes on the DMCA and then turn it in for a class assignment. When you get sued, you tell them "Hey, Fuck Off. My school owns the copyright!"

yeah, so you'll get kicked out of school. it'd still be funny :)

Re:Read a little more closely next time (1)

room101 (236520) | more than 13 years ago | (#142745)

This is not always true. The use of "they" implies plural case, whereas "he" or "she" implies singular. Thus, if you are talking about a single person, (ie. a student) it is improper to refer to that person as "they", instead, "he/she" or "s/he" etc. are more grammatically correct.

On the other hand, one could strive to always use collective plurals, thus "students" instead of "a student", to resolve this often messy usage, but this isn't always best.

Re:Isn't this obvious (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 13 years ago | (#142746)

The GPL extends the right to anyone to use the original work for any purpose whatsoever on a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exlusive basis.

RTFGPL. No it doesn't.

At any rate, since you are granting the University a non exclusive license, I take that to mean that you can license the code to any other party in any way you want. That includes licensing it to the rest of the world under GPL. Of course, IANAL.

Re:How can it be a work for hire... (1)

Webmonger (24302) | more than 13 years ago | (#142747)

Damn straight!

What if the GPL is required? (1)

voiceofthewhirlwind (451735) | more than 13 years ago | (#142748)

Somewhat offtopic is the many operating systems courses (like at UW) that have projects that involve modification of Linux kernel code- and no consideration is given to the GPL at all. Perhaps making all the students work freely available would make it difficult to assign the same homework in later quarters, but that's no excuse...

been there, done that, nobody cared. (1)

htmlboy (31265) | more than 13 years ago | (#142749)

Having taken the class, I'm surprised that there's this much worry about the issue. I released my MP's for it under the GPL and nobody cared. Due to the size of most of the popular (or required, like this one) classes at uiuc, programming assignments have very strict rules for what needs to be done. The assignments are generally more fill-in-the-blank than anything else. Students have to complete a method to do the specified behavior, or maybe write something simple from scratch. But nothing is complex enough to bring out some programming genius worthy of a patent or controversy over the licensing.

Any projects I've seen that would require consideration of this sort have been funded by a corporation for a senior project, or just done in the student's spare time.

This is all fun to talk about, but I don't think it really matters.

sigdashes for mdog

Well, I know about other works (1)

metachimp (456723) | more than 13 years ago | (#142750)

Seeing as how I wasn't a CS major, I never had to write any code or do any programming for college.

That being said, at my college, papers and theses were yours, but many people left theses and papers behind for use as sources for other papers/theses (you had to quote them like you would any other source, you were on your honor not to plagiarize, they were kept in a library and you couldn't check them out, plagiarism would get you booted out.)

As far as I know, Harvey Mudd (across the street) had a pretty hands off policy toward student work, it was yours to with what you wanted, I don't think they laid claim to anybody's schoolwork unless they wanted to contribute it. I know for sure that if you took a CS class at Mudd or Pomona, your home college's policies where in effect regarding IP for any class, this applied to pretty much all class work, regardless of the department.

For an educational institution to try to lay claim to a student's work in any field would be in pretty bad form, although it's not unheard of for profs to swipe undergrad work and try to push it off as their own. I've never known of any instances where I went to school, but I'm sure it happens. There wasn't a big push for profs to publish either, but this might be a different situation at a larger University where it's "publish or perish"

Are you doing the work as a paid employee? (2)

volsung (378) | more than 13 years ago | (#142751)

I wrestled with this question about a year ago. I wrote C code to allow LabVIEW (a very odd graphical programming system) to interface to an obsolete multichannel analyzer card. I wanted to release my code under the GPL, so I checked up on the rules at Arizona State University (your Uni may vary).

Their basic policy was that you retain all the rights to your work (including the choice of how to license it) if you did it as an "assignment." This even applied if you used generally-available university resources, like computer labs, to do the work. ASU, however, retained the rights to work that you did as a paid employee of the university. Since I was working as a programmer/sysadmin/whatever for a lab at ASU, I fell into the second category, and therefore could not immediately release my work.

However, not all was lost. ASU (and perhaps your university does as well) and a nice and long form you could fill out to officially declare your intellectual property to the head honcho in charge of IP. If on the form you could convince the IP-honcho that the work had no "significant market value", you could get permission to release it. I decided that this was not worth the trouble, but perhaps you would be willing to go through such a process.

Re:Read a little more closely next time (2)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 13 years ago | (#142752)

I'm not arguing with the applications to this specific case, but to the blanket statement the parent poster made. There's enough general incorrect beliefs about copyright law out there.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the students have every right (in THIS university's case) to GPL their stuff, but in general that may not always be true.

Also, a correction to my own post above, only the copyright holder can change the license OR grant permission to do so. i.e. the BSD style licenses.

Serve the public interest (1)

lpoulsen (148228) | more than 13 years ago | (#142753)

It used to be assumed that research done at publicly funded universities must serve the public interest, and therefore all research results were destined to pass into the public domain. Then some graduate students discovered that you could make money on patenting your thesis work. Shortly after that, the universities decided that they own the intellectual property rights to much of that work. Then some corporations decided that they would be willing to fund university research in return for exclusive rights to the research results. This has now gotten to where some corporations prohibit publication of the trade secrets developed through research they sponsored, sometimes despite (a) the corporation having taken a tax deduction for the money they granted to the school and (b) in some cases only part of the funding came from the company.

I applaud any attempts to restore the public release of university research, and GPL of CS coursework seems like a good step in that direction. The quoted guidelines appear to be quite GPL compatible. Asking the university lawyers seems like a bad idea. I have never found lawyers to give useful, clear answers to intellectual rights questions. Instead they tend to want to cover the university's buttocks with lots of paper and create unneccesary restrictions.

Re:From what you just said... (2)

dbarclay10 (70443) | more than 13 years ago | (#142754)

Well, it said "royalty-free", not "condition-free". There's nothing in that little blurb that says that professors don't need to abide by the terms of the license; only that the license must allow use, be perpetual, and royalty-free.

Assuming the student submitted something under the GPL, it would be the professor's duty to provide source code(at request) for any compiled binaries he dstributed.

So, the upshot? Either the student's GPL'd work can't be used in the way you suggest, or the student licenses the source to the professor under a slightly modified GPL("if this Program is to be used as an academic example, the compiled Work may be distributed without source, so long as the Program and its source are made available after the course of study").

The point is that the student retains the copyright; he or she can do whatever they want.

Barclay family motto:
Aut agere aut mori.
(Either action or death.)

mass confusion (1)

yali (209015) | more than 13 years ago | (#142755)

On reading this I became curious what my own institution [] 's policies were, so I looked them up. FWIW:

First of all, my school maintains separate policies for copyright and patents. The copyright policy [] states that copyright of student works resides with the student. The patent policy [] makes no specific references to students, but says that anybody who uses university facilities or receives money from the uni (including gifts and grants) has to surrender patent rights to the uni, though they get a chunk of any royalties.

Since different aspects of software can fall under copyright or patent law, sounds like this must be mighty confusing for the CS folks. My best guess about what this means is that if you invent something, the university owns the invention, but you own whatever you say about the invention (and in the case of software, you own the specific code you wrote to implement the invention).

Ah, but who really cares... (2)

joto (134244) | more than 13 years ago | (#142756)

I'd never thought beginning CS students would ever care for this. For God's sake, it's intro to CS. You don't really expect the students to produce something even remotely useful, do you?

Now, when it comes to a major thesis, then it becomes interesting to start discussing who should own copyrights to works, but for a basic CS course it should have no interest to anyone. As long as the students deliver their assignments in a form that is technically and legally readable, it doesn't matter to anyone.

Why bother?

Re:Base it on GNU hello.c. (1)

tmark (230091) | more than 13 years ago | (#142757)

Damn, do GPL zealots here really think that 'basing' something on an essentially obvious but GPL'ed hello.c should force something to fall under the GPL? That makes me sick. I cannot imagine the hue and cry that would arise here if Microsoft tried to enforce or even tried to suggestsuch specious claims to their intellectual property.

Suppose some old QuickC manuals contained Microsoft copyrighted code that got borrowed and incorportated into Linux by some coder...would people here assert that Linux thusly fell under Microsoft's licenses ? (Yeah, I know the code in the QuickC manual probably isn't copyrighted but I'm too tired to search for those things in my basement)

Re:Partially public funded (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142758)

How about artists and novelists who receive government grants? Should they be forced to donate their work to the public domain?

Of course not. They do owe something to the public, but it is important that they support themselves through their work as much as possible.

Re:Partially public funded (1)

Mhrmnhrm (263196) | more than 13 years ago | (#142759)

Perhaps this just hasn't made it to my moderation threshhold, but the one comment I have yet to see made is that by placing their programs under the GPL, the students are effectively placing their programs on a huge bulliten board. Successive students will then be able to copy that code and re-submit it, which, under GPL, is permissible, but under university rules is plagarism. I would congratulate the students on their desire to use the GPL, but point out to them that they are undermining the quality of their degree by allowing students to legally (but unethically) copy their work for future programs.

Re:Depends on the university you are going to (1)

metachimp (456723) | more than 13 years ago | (#142760)

I graduate from University of Michigan last December

Hmm. Looks like U of M needs to have some more English/Composition requirements for CS.

Re:Isn't this obvious (3)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 13 years ago | (#142761)

I'm not so sure of this. At my school, in undergraduate classes of significant complexity, professors have no problem with students usuing publicly available code, as long as there is significant original content. If you are writing a spiffy new server that performs a fairly novel function for a networking class, no one minds if you make use of an existing bit of GPL code to parse and error check URL's on the client.

Yeah, infinite hello world is useless to GPL. But I've written some sizable bits of undergraduate code that I, or someone else, might want to use at some other point. If I did some research and found a solution to a problem that someone else might have to solve on the way to solving another problem, then GPLed code could prove to be of use. Allowing GPLing not only ensures that other people will be able to use it, but that the university cannot restrict your ability to re-use your own work in other areas.

An example: my roomate and a friend wrote a program for a DB class to do image queries by sketch. To do so, they needed something like a paint program. The professor was not interested in their ability to write paint; she wanted to see the scoring method that they had researched which promised to give better matches on image queries. They borrowed a GPL'ed paint program, which could have been written by some other kid at some other college, writing code for a graphic UI class, and adapted the code to work with the system. Two seperate, undergraduate level problems. No reason that one couldn't benefit from the other, however.

If my college, or the college of the lad who wrote the paint program, were more restrictive about GPL'ing and releasing projects done for the college, my roomate and his partner would have never finished. They would have wasted their time re-writing paint, instead of being able to implement their query algorithms. A really nifty project would have been impossible.

"Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"

Re:Partially public funded (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142762)

Well, I never thought about it before. Yes, they should.

Re:Partially public funded (2)

Arandir (19206) | more than 13 years ago | (#142763)

If it were released under another license we could be denied the right to any future improvements which were based on the original code.

This sounds well and good, but what about those bits in the derivative work which were not funded at taxpayer's expense? The taxpayers did not fund those specific bits. Perhaps a weaker copyleft might fill the bill: "do whatever you want but distribute the original along with the derivation".

In any event, the reason that taxpayer funded works should be free is so that any taxpayer can use them. Corporations can come along and create derivative works from them, but the originals are still there and available for all. It doesn't go away. Keeping a minimal copyright on it, like the BSD or MIT licenses, is all the protection it needs to guarantee free access for everyone.

Re:Isn't this obvious (2)

Arandir (19206) | more than 13 years ago | (#142764)

But only conditionally...

"For any purpose whatsoever" also includes making derivative works, linking to the work via name referencing, etc. There are many uses that the GPL forbids without certain conditions first being met by the end user.

Re:Partially public funded (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142765)

Which is exactly what happened with BSD. DARPA funded the development. And because any idiot could use it and its wonderful TCP/IP stack, we have open standards with a very low barrier to entry which give us the wonderful Internet we have today.

the first time (2)

mashy (135839) | more than 13 years ago | (#142766)

the first time I submitted a compsci assignment with the GPL headers and such attached, I got a funny look from the instructor. She wasn't very aware of what it was and asked me a few basic questions about it. I tried explaining it but mostly got questions like, "But what's this license thing?" or "Did you make it?" or "What does this do for you?" or "So who are these GPL people??". Once she finally got it she did express concern over whether or not this was allowed, since I was submitting it to her, and then she had to submit it to people abroad for grading (crazy program). Anyway, I gave her the GPL overview, and she was easily convinced that it was harmless because I was infact the copyright holder.

Anyway that was sort of offtopic but I would say, just go ahead and GPL it and wait for someone to say something about it. Then we'll all have a new geeks rights violation submission to flame about :)

Re:Work for hire (1)

civilizedINTENSITY (45686) | more than 13 years ago | (#142767)

Unless you've agreed to transfer ownership in the contract you signed to become a student.

Bases (2)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 13 years ago | (#142768)

All you homework are belong to us!

Seriously I don't think any ugrad-level work should be owned by the university. I don't think the general grad stuff should be either unless they are working on a big project of which the univeristy is sponsoring in some way. Simply using a basic lab machine doesn't qualify in my book. My lab and engineering fees are supposed to cover those resources. Now if I was on some bigass SGI doing DNA simulations or something of the like of which the university had to purchase something for or they had to give me control of a large lab for an extended period of time, then yes I do think that they should have part of my work. Otherwise people would go to school forever to use up the unv's resources and then sell their work to the top bidder.


Re:The Uni owns it (5)

Azog (20907) | more than 13 years ago | (#142769)

Think of it as the university being your employer
Why should I think of the university as being my employer, when I'm the one paying to be there?

Or do you get paid to go to university? If so, then it would make more sense that they own (or, at least have rights to) the work you do there.

Torrey Hoffman (Azog)

Re:If you want your code to be GPLed.. (2)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 13 years ago | (#142770)

So you're saying that any student that links to a library not also owned by their school is violating the law because the school in all their assholishness forces them to cough up their right for their schools use (as if students werne't price gouged enough)?

I for one would just release my programs as GPL works and post them online before turning them in. I'm not sure if this would qualify as dual-licensed or not but once the code is spread they can't get it back. They can blame you all they want but they can't take it away from the public.

Re:Partially public funded (1)

Gumshoe (191490) | more than 13 years ago | (#142771)

That's assuming that the students actually used the "publically funded hardware". In all my years at Uni, I *never* used such hardware.

In Oz Uni / Tertiary Institute OWNS ALL RIGHTS (1)

The_Myth (84113) | more than 13 years ago | (#142772)

I've worked for a number of different colleges and universities in Australia as an IT Lecturer and the same policy has always been in force - THE INSTITUTION OWNS ALL ASSIGNMENTS. The student has no rights to publish, distribute or even reuse assignments or derivitive works. There are no requirements for students to receive royalties and on enrollment a student waives all rights not specifically mentioned on the enrollment over their assignments. its a hard life but ....

Paying for the privilege..... (1)

Sir_Dill (218371) | more than 13 years ago | (#142773)

A common theme I am seeing in the posts about this is that if the students produce the work on university computers then the univerisity has some right to claim ownership. I don't see how people can be okay with this. Can Kinko's claim ownership of any images I manipulate on thier machines because they own the hardware? The university isn't an employer, and therefore does not have the right, in my mind, to claim ownership on any work done as part of the requirements for a class. Research work is different because you are performing work on behalf of the university. It is expected for the university to claim this work because in a way they are your employer.

The last argument against this has to do with other classes and not just computer classes. What if a music major compses a symphony...does the university have rights to it because the student used school materials to produce it? Something to think about.

My Jr High sued me for damages because I sold a program I wrote in the computer lab to M$.....

Re:GPL is not a virus. (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 13 years ago | (#142774)

And even if the GPL didn't imply that, the practical implications of retaining and defending your GPL'd code yourself is overwhelming. The only hope that a GPL'd program has is to have its copyright transferred to the FSF. Once this is done, though, any hope of creating derived works that aren't GPL'd are quickly dashed, because the FSF wouldn't allow it.

Dancin Santa

Re:How can it be a work for hire... (1)

CaseStudy (119864) | more than 13 years ago | (#142775)

How can it be a work for hire if you're paying them?

Reason #1: because they're telling you what to write. "Work for hire" has nothing to do with money and everything to do with authorial control

Reason #2: because the Copyright Act says so:

A "work made for hire" is--

(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. [boldface not in original]

Corporate Control (1)

NotoriousQ (457789) | more than 13 years ago | (#142776)

I remember when I was researching the UIUC for possible entry as an undergrad, I talked to a few people, including CS professors and etc. One of the things they told me is that engineering in UIUC is partially funded by NCSA and Beckman institute. Basically if you do reasearch projects, including writing software, then if it is done in their labs, it is their property. If i recall correctly, that is what happened to Mosaic (that's is why it is NCSA Mosaic). I think a team of grads developed it in the NCSA lab, thus giving all rights to NCSA to market.

But I could be wrong....either way that was not the reason I chose not to go there.

Remember, when you are downloading MP3's, you are downloading communism!!!

Re:GPL is not a virus. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#142777)

It sounds tautological, but the GPL only applies to the activities of those who are granted permission to copy only by the license. The original authnor, if he has not used any code that others wrote unless they also assigned the copyrights to him, doesn't have to license himself to use the code -- he has that right by virtue of his authorship. The GPL is a contract attached to specific uses of a work. It says: "in the abstract you have no right to copy this code, but if you accept the GPL terms, I give you the right to copy/modify/distribute the code." (see para. 5) Because the author already has the right to copy/modify/distribute his own code, he doesn't have to go through the GPL, and accept its terms, to get those rights.

Its not that simple (2)

jbischof (139557) | more than 13 years ago | (#142778)

Maybe not the first course but the next one or the one after that, students start putting in serious time, and sometimes generate really good code. So then allowing the student to have rights over his code would be good.

On the other hand, I have had a lot of assignments where the instructor sets up the basic layout, and does a lot of work to aid you in creating your code, lots of time even creating other code/programs to help the students. In this case maybe the instructor should have rights to a program that he designed and orchestrated but didn't actually code.

Also, just because its an intro course doesn't mean that a more experienced programmer isn't creating advanced code.

Chambana grad perspective (1)

tomdarch (225937) | more than 13 years ago | (#142779)

As an alum of U of IL @ Urbana-Champaign, I can comment on how this whole thing is typically implemented, at least before any lawers are involved. Esentially, anyting the school wants out of your work, it keeps. I was there for architecture, so any cool drawing you drew or model you built for a class that the professor wanted to keep at the end of the class (usually because you kicked ass and the prof wants to show to next year's class) they kept. At us$20 per hour, the School of Architecture has millions of dollars worth of student work in the archives. Now, the big difference between student architecure projects and software is that, really, the school isn't going to make any real money off the student work, whereas with software, they could make millions. If I remember, my Hopkins Residence Hall buddy Marc Andressen re-wrote all his Mosaic code when he split for Netscape. (I still remember sophmore year asking my friend Dave, "What's that guy Marc up to?" Dave said, "he's working for NCSA with some program connecting pictures and text over the internet." I replyed, "They're paying him to do that?!?" Little did I know....) While one question is: what does the 'shrink wrap agreement' that we agree to when attending the school say, a more important question is: have there been court cases to test this. I suspect that there are precedents where medical and engineering students have come up with valuable ideas. Have they been able to give these ideas away?

Re:Isn't this obvious (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#142780)

Yes, as it's non-exclusive then you can give one copy to the school under their license, and you can GPL a separate copy. Or label one copy with "your choice of the following two licenses".

Double Standard (2)

PotatoMan (130809) | more than 13 years ago | (#142781)

If I understand this, the University wants a free license to use student work anyway they see fit. At the same time, we have professors at UCLA bringing copyright infringement suits against students who publish their own class notes?

Senior Projects (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 13 years ago | (#142782)

At My school (Cal Poly SLO) you have to sign a reliece saying that any IP associated with your Senior Project or Masters Thesis belongs to the University. My friend designed a bridge for his senior project that was actually going to be built. That is until the city found out that they would have to pay Cal Poly for the plans. Now instead of having a great deal of grunt work done for little cost, The city is starting from scratch on an inferior design. the same thing used to happen in CSC until the department changed to having students hand in a paper describing there code and methods with the (suitably licenced) code "Provided for the readers convience."


Re:Partially public funded (1)

howardjp (5458) | more than 13 years ago | (#142783)

No, it does not. It presumes they are going to a publicly funded school. Where they may be in a publicly funded dorm room. Or, something certain, have a publicly funded instructor.

Lazy Teachers (2)

moankey (142715) | more than 13 years ago | (#142784)

I had a marketing course back some years ago and remember an incident where the instructor asked the class to come up with a marketing presentation for some aircraft company and then follow through for mock up purposes. As it turns out this instructor had also taken a project for an aircraft company. It was soon revealed by another student, graduate student with professional ties and contacts, that the instructor was using the presentations and student marketing efforts for his personal financial gain. Whether this is legal or ethical I dont know, but it sounds like students these days are more up to date than instructors and this little clause allows instructors to take several students work, make it into something for the benefit of themselves or the institution.

Why would I /want/ to GPL my student code? (2)

devphil (51341) | more than 13 years ago | (#142785)

Putting code under the GPL implies that others would want to do something with your code.

Most of the code I've seen written by students -- including my own, when I was an undergrad -- wasn't of sufficient quality to be worth "protecting" with the GPL. I would be embarassed to defend some of the work I did as a student, heck, I'd be ashamed to admit that some of the first- and second-year code I wrote was actually mine in the first place.

Putting my first-year card-playing program (learning how to use aggregate types, wheeee) under the GPL would be like a 3-year-old claiming intellectual property rights on a finger painting.

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