Draft report of the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on
Intellectual Property and Conflict of Commitment

Provost's Introduction

Membership and Charge to the Committee

Statement of Principles

Comparison of Policies

Links to other academic IP policies

Background Information about Copyright



Provost's Introduction

Dear Colleagues:

Important new issues face MIT and other universities as higher education changes in the age of electronically available information. The creation of the Internet and of new means for distributing educational content have led to new opportunities for faculty members and universities to deliver education. These new opportunities also create potential conflicts between personal initiatives of a faculty member and their responsibilities to MIT. These issues differ from many of those we have worked with in the past because they involve creating intellectual property developed around educational content, as well as from research.

It is important for our faculty to think about the impact of electronically available information, about the mission of the Institute, and our core values and to establish the set of principles that will help guide faculty governance in this rapidly changing arena. The goal of my message and this Website are to involve you in the process that has been established to found such principles.

Last spring I asked Associate Provost, Professor Philip Clay, to chair an Ad Hoc Committee to think about intellectual property and faculty commitment in the context of the Internet and electronic delivery of educational content. I asked this committee to propose a set of principles to help guide MIT in establishing policies for faculty involvement in outside educational activities and for ownership of the Intellectual Property created for electronic distribution. My charge to the Ad Hoc Committee is available on this Website.

The committee members were: Professors Hal Abelson, EECS; Randall Davis, EECS, Peter S. Donaldson, Literature; Steven R. Lerman, Director, CECI, Faculty Chair, Civil and Environment Engineering; David Litster, Vice President and Dean for Research; Dava Newman, Aeronautics and Astronautics; Steven Pinker, Brain and Cognitive Science; and Thomas M. Stoker, Sloan School.

The committee has reported to me and their draft Statement of Principles is available on this Website. Also included are a document comparing the intellectual property policies of several of our peer universities and a link to a website containing relevant policies from many other universities.

I am writing you to start a formal discussion of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee. The schedule for the discussion period is:

  • Report of the Ad Hoc Committee to the provost filed: January 1, 2001
  • Open comment period involving MIT faculty: January through February 2001.
  • Discussion at MIT Faculty Meeting, February 21, 2001
  • Discussions in Academic Council on potential changes in MIT Policies and Procedures: March through April 2001
  • Report to Faculty at MIT Faculty Meeting, May 2001

I urge you to read the Statement of Principles and other material on this MIT Website and to become involved in the discussions in your department as well as the larger forums. (Your comments can also be submitted to ip-feedback@mit.edu.) Our goal is to craft a set of principles that will help our faculty make optimal use of the emerging technology for education, while maintaining the collegiality of our campus, the essential open dissemination of information, and our faculty commitment to the mission of MIT.

I look forward to the discussion that will occur.

Robert A. Brown