Ownership & licenses

Copyright provides the owner of a work with exclusive exploitation rights and the right to allow others to exploit the work.

Copyright is an intellectual property right that provides the author of an original work with the exclusive rights to copy the work and to make it publicly available. The work’s original owner is the author who creates the work and makes ‘creative choices’ in its production. This definition, however, has some exceptions. For example, works created by an employee in connection with his/her employment are generally owned by the employer. As such, the employer has copyright on those works. Copyright may also be owned by two or more people who jointly create a work. The exclusive rights (not the moral rights) may also be licensed or transferred to other parties. 

Who owns copyright on research reports and publications?

WUR owns copyright on research reports, publications and other scientific works created by its employees. WUR scientists are employees of either Wageningen University or Stichting Wageningen Research. Works created in connection with this employment relationship are owned by the employer, regardless of whether this work was created during regular working hours or by using the employer’s equipment. Accordingly, copyright on research reports, publications and other scientific works is vested in WUR by law. As such, only WUR has the exclusive right to reproduce the work or to make the work publicly available. The original author keeps his/her moral rights, for example, the right to be cited as the publication’s author. 

Finally, specific rules on copyright ownership may apply for reports commissioned by a third party or developed during a research collaboration or subsidy project. Contact your legal department regarding ownership questions. 

Who owns copyright on research data?

WUR owns copyright on protected datasets created by its employees. 

Unstructured, ‘raw’ datasets (e.g., databases filled with factual measurement data) are not subject to ownership and therefore not protected by copyright. If creative choices are made in selecting materials in the dataset and/or in structuring the dataset, all or part of the dataset may be subject to copyright protection. Since works created in connection with employment are owned by the employer, copyright pertaining to protected research data generated by WUR and its employees is vested in WUR. 

For further information, see Research Data.

Who owns copyright on educational materials?

WUR owns the copyright on educational materials created by its employees. Copyright on educational materials, such as lecture materials, PowerPoint slide shows, course guides and other educational materials are vested solely in WUR. In short, only WUR has the exclusive right to reproduce the work or to make the work publicly available. The original author of the materials keeps his/her moral rights, for example, the right to be cited as the author. 

For educational materials containing third party materials, see question below: Who owns copyright on works that are created with others?

Who owns copyright on a PhD thesis?

The PhD candidate owns the copyright on his/her PhD thesis, unless this has been fully or partially transferred to a commissioner, an employer or a publisher. The PhD candidate who creates his/her PhD thesis (i.e., who writes the thesis and in that process makes the creative choices leading to the final wording of the thesis) owns the copyright on the work. As such, copyright in the thesis is vested in the PhD candidate who creates the thesis. In some cases, the PhD candidate is requested to transfer copyright to the commissioner of a PhD research project or to a publisher in the case of scientific publications. For advice regarding such contractual arrangements, the PhD candidate may contact the legal department of the science group where they conduct their research. 

Who owns copyright on a MSc/BSc thesis?

The student owns copyright to his/her MSc/BSc thesis. The student who creates his/her MSc/BSc thesis (i.e., who writes the thesis and in that process makes the creative choices leading to the final wording of the thesis) owns the copyright on the work. Accordingly, copyright in the thesis is vested in the student who creates the thesis. This also applies to other student work products (essays, papers, reports, etc.). See Student Charter for more information.

In some cases, a thesis is fully or partially created in the course of a commissioned study assignment or in the course of an internship. In that case, the student may agree upon an alternative ownership. If no agreement is reached, the student owns the copyright on the thesis. Moreover, if no agreement is reached, the thesis research, in some cases, cannot take place (see Open Access Thesis Policy). For advice regarding such contractual arrangements, the student may contact the legal department of the science group where they study. 

Who owns copyright on MOOCs, video recordings of lectures, presentations or ceremonies?

WUR owns copyright on MOOCs and video recordings of lectures, presentations or ceremonies. In accordance with Article 45d of the Dutch Copyright Act, the producer of a video recording is assumed to be exclusively entitled to reproduce and distribute the recording. Recordings of MOOCs, lectures, presentations or ceremonies are usually created by WUR and its employees. The name of WUR is also usually attached to the recordings. Accordingly, copyright pertaining to video recordings generated by WUR and its employees is vested in WUR. 

This producer’s right should be distinguished from the entitlement to the content of the MOOC, lecture or presentation (i.e., the educational materials). The content should been seen as a separate work that is subject to copyright protection (see question above: Who owns copyright on education materials?).

If someone else (e.g., a student) records a MOOC, lecture or presentation without WUR commissioning the action, this could be seen as infringing on WUR’s copyright (i.e., the recording’s subject matter) and also as infringing on the privacy of the individual who is giving the presentation. This is also reflected in the Personal Data Regulation of WUR. WUR is entitled to take appropriate measures against unauthorized reproduction of these recordings or against making the recordings publicly available. 

Who owns copyright on works that are created with others?

Materials that are created by WUR are often part of a project or partially rely on materials of third parties. Four different categories of collaborative creation can be distinguished: 

Works that are developed by WUR and WR

Where a WUR employee develops original works in the context of his/her employment, the rights to those works are vested in WU or WR, depending on the entity at which the employee in question is employed. Where two or more WUR employees co-create a work, the copyright to the material also rests with the employer. If the employees involved are employed by WU and WR, this could mean that WU and WR are jointly entitled to copyright on the work. 

Work developed by WUR in collaboration with other institutions

Where a work has been created by employees of WUR and employees of another institution or organization, WUR and the other institution may have a joint copyright. For joint copyright, all people involved must indivisibly contribute in the creative choices that are reflected in the work. For further information on the consequences of joint ownership, see question below: What is joint ownership?

Use of works of third parties by WUR

Works developed by WUR may contain material from third parties. In addition to publications and other text material, material could concern, for example, music fragments, video or photo images or source code on which the copyright rests not with WUR but with third parties. 

To reproduce or publish such material in a new work of WUR, for example, in a research paper, presentation, app or audio-visual work, either a statutory limitation must apply (e.g., the citation right; see Citing & Plagiarism), or permission must be granted by the owner of the copyright of the third party material. That permission can also be obtained through a Creative Commons-license (see question below: What is a Creative Commons license?).

New work of WUR inspired by third party materials

When developing a new work, a WUR employee may be inspired by the publicly available work of third parties. This includes the situation where a WUR employee views a recording or MOOC from another institution and chooses the same set-up for his/her own MOOC or where the employee chooses the same style for his/her materials. 

Ownership of copyright on a new, original work created by WUR employees that was inspired by the work of others is vested in WUR as employer. The key question is whether the new work of WUR is sufficiently different from the work that served as inspiration. If the works are similar, then the copyright of the third party may be infringed, which means that the use (i.e., reproducing and making the work publicly available) is not permitted without prior permission of the third party. That permission is considered a license (see question below: What is a license?).

What is joint ownership?

Joint copyright means that two or more persons own copyright on one work. To establish joint ownership on the entire work, it cannot be established in retrospect which contribution was made by each contributor. Providing ideas, suggestions, facilities, research and other background knowledge and input does not in itself contribute to joint copyright of the work.

Joint ownership creates a ‘community’ between the joint owners. Under Dutch law, such a community implies that exploitation, licensing, transfer, or other encumbrance may take place only with the permission of the other entity. This means that without the consent of all parties involved, no material can be re-used or licensed on which WUR and one or more others have joint copyright. This risk can be largely mitigated by clarifying beforehand, for example contractually, how the work will be used and made accessible.

How do I transfer my copyright?

Copyright can be transferred only by a written contract or deed. Contact your legal department for assistance on transfer of copyright ownership. Even after transfer of ownership, the original author still holds the moral rights as well as several rights pursuant to Copyright Contract Law (e.g., to make the work available under the Taverne amendment).

What is a license?

Copyright law enables the owner to decide how and if others can use the work. To reproduce or make a work publicly available, a party may need to obtain permission from the work’s owner if no statutory limitation applies. Such permission from the owner is called a ‘license’. The disclaimer "all rights reserved" serves to make clear that no permission is given in advance for reproduction and publication.

A license may be subject to terms. For example, the license may be limited to a field of use, territory, royalty obligation or lump-sum payment. In addition, the license may or may not be exclusive, transferable, sublicensable, or limited in duration. In commercial relationships, payment of a fee or royalty is often part of the licensing terms. Standard terms are sometimes used to grant a license, of which Creative Commons is a well-known example (see question below: What is a Creative Commons license?).

An exclusive license can be provided only by a written contract or deed. Even after exclusive licensing, the original author still holds the moral rights as well as several rights pursuant to Copyright Contract Law (e.g., to make the work available under the Taverne amendment).

A work without a license may still be made publicly available under open access. Open access only entails that the work is made publicly available to the general public. Without a license, the owner may still decide to make a work publicly available but without immediately authorizing reproduction and/or making the work publicly available to others. Anyone may for their own purposes download, read, refer to, use as inspiration and legitimately publish a work that has been lawfully made publicly available. A license only adds that the user has permission to reproduce and publish that entire work subject to the license terms. For further information, see questions below on Creative Commons licenses.

What is a Creative Commons license?

With a Creative Commons (‘CC’)-license, the owner of a work’s copyright grants general permission to reproduce the work and make it publicly available. These actions are subject to the terms of the specific license.

A work without a CC-license may still be made publicly available under open access (see question above: What is a license?).

The author of a work can choose from 6 different Creative Commons Licenses: CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-ND, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA and CC BY-NC-ND. The letter pairs indicate the applicable license terms. The figure below gives an overview of what each license allows. For more information about the licenses, visit the website Creative Commons.

Note that only the copyright owner has the right to put a CC-license on the work. Learn how to license materials in Marking your work with a CC license.

Creative Commons - summary

Creative Commons licenses by Foter (CC-BY-SA)

Why would I make research output or education material available under a CC-license?

Many public funding agencies now demand or recommend that research output be made available under a CC-license (see question above: what is a Creative Commons License?). A CC-license not only makes the work freely available but also allows others to redistribute the material under the license terms. A CC-license may be useful for teachers who want to share teaching materials like videos or assignments. Please note that only the copyright owner is allowed to put a CC-license on the work.

If I want to make my research output available under a CC-license, what CC-license should I choose?

If you are required to make your research output available under a CC-license (see question above: What is a Creative Commons License?), we recommend checking the project’s contract. The contract will indicate which license is needed. The license choice usually depends on ownership, access rights and publication. If the CC-license is not stipulated in the contract, ask others in your group what they do or contact the legal department of your science group.

Last updated on 15/04/2020.