By Rachel Anderson
While standing in lines that stretch around the length of the bookstore, some students may have discovered that their course instructor and the author of the corresponding textbook is the same person. No, this is not a professor?s clandestine attempt to supplement their paycheck at the expense of helpless students.
How much money a professor will see in royalties from their textbook, if they ever will, is closely related to the copyright ownership of the book. Copyright issues and the business aspects of commercializing intellectual property, such as textbooks, are managed by BYU?s Intellectual Property Services, a support staff tucked along the west side of the Harold B. Lee Library.
?Federal law gives ownership of creative expression to the author as soon as it is put down in tangible form,? said Carl Johnson, director of the Copyright Licensing Office, one of the three divisions of Intellectual Property Services. ?The copyright is owned because the author created it.?
Copyright law deviates from this simplicity when the author is an employee of the university.
?There has been a shift in policy, so now authors of a text don?t receive royalties,? said Clayne Pope, an economics professor and co-author of ?America?s Founding Heritage.? ?Early on, we did it by ourselves and retained the copyright and royalties.?
In current policy, when only ?nominal? use of university resources are used in writing a textbook, the authors get the copyright. However, when ?substantial? resources are used, the university keeps the textbook?s copyright. This is true for all creative works produced on campus, although textbooks are the most visible products to students.
Pope doesn?t have the copyright of ?America?s Founding Heritage,? the new edition required for the GE course American Heritage, because of substantial use.
?What was done differently is the university commissioned the text and we received overload compensation,? said Pope.
Johnson identifies the nominal use issue as a ?fuzzy area.?
?It is the dean [of the author?s department] that makes the judgment,? he said.
Because of the many variables involved in university and faculty copyright and royalty agreements, each case is considered independently.
BYU?s Intellectual Property Policy is well regarded.
?We are sometimes called upon to furnish our policy to other universities,? Johnson said. ?It is categorized as a good balance between the university and faculty.?
When the university owns the copyright to a textbook, one of the most common ways to divide up the net income from royalties is to award 45 percent to the author, 27.5 percent to the author?s department, and 27.5 percent to Intellectual Property Services, according to policy.
A popular royalty plan listed in the policy is a non-taxable research account, which would fund more scholarly activities for the author. If the university owns the copyright, a professor can designate their 27.5 percent to a research account. If a professor owns the copyright under nominal use, 90 percent of royalties can be given to the author, with the other 10 percent to Intellectual Property Services.
That was the choice of Harold Stokes, physics professor and author of ?Solid State Physics? for his class: Physics 281. He had that choice because it was determined that in the yearlong process writing the textbook, he only used nominal resources of the university.
?I can?t go on vacation to Tahiti with the royalties,? said Stokes. ?I can?t buy a new automobile with it; I can?t pay my rent with it.?
He can use the money for anything university related.
?I have spent money on technical support in classrooms, on travel to conferences,? said Stokes.
According to Intellectual Property Services policy, BYU professors cannot take home royalties from material they require their on-campus students to buy for their courses, even if they do own the copyright under nominal use.
?It?s a university rule that we are not allowed to get royalties from copies used in classes on campus,? said Stokes. ?It?s a conflict of interest. Instead, royalties from books sold on campus are redirected to a research account.?