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The Teacher Exception Under the Work for Hire Doctrine: Safeguard of Academic Freedom or Vehicle for Academic Free Enterprise?


According to the “work made for hire doctrine” of the Copyright Act, the creators of artistic and literary works are not legally granted ownership of works created in the course of employment; ownership rests with the employer. However, through de facto custom and court dicta, academics may enjoy a “teacher exception” that grants them copyright ownership of publications and course materials. Though there are several benefits behind this practice, the question of intellectual property ownership has blurred as institutions are investing in distance education and commissioning faculty members to create online courses.

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Sincere thanks to Professor Paul J. Heald of the University of Georgia School of Law for his assistance in developing the idea for this paper and supervising its completion and to Michael Klein, Esq. for his most helpful comments during the editing phase.

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Correspondence to Joy Blanchard.

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Joy Blanchard

is an independent consultant from St. Martinville, Louisiana. She holds an Honors baccalaureate in French education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a Master’s degree in higher education from Florida State University, and a Ph.D. in higher education from the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include higher education law as it relates to institutional liability as well as faculty issues. She previously has served as Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and also has worked in residence life, judicial affairs, student activities, and service learning. She may be contacted at

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Blanchard, J. The Teacher Exception Under the Work for Hire Doctrine: Safeguard of Academic Freedom or Vehicle for Academic Free Enterprise?. Innov High Educ 35, 61–69 (2010).

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