The University of Iowa’s famous Writing Program is under fire from its graduate students — and the creative world at large — for its new “Open Access” philosophy of publishing creative works of its students on the internet to be found and indexed by Google and other search engines.

That attack on the creative spark is not going over well in the creative community because no publisher would want to buy a book if it was already “published” for free on the internet.

This leads to a larger question: Who owns the Copyright? The student? Or the university?

Some universities outright claim at least co-ownership — if not full ownership — of anything created under their program mandate.

Few students understand that, by participating in a graduate program, they are forgiving any claims to Copyright ownership in order to be accepted into — and sustained by — their university program of study.

That student acquiescence of Copyright is automatic and invisible — even if the student pays his or her own way in the program.

Many university film programs have always claimed Copyright from their students because, they argue, without their support and inspiration, the film would never have been produced and that makes the university at least a co-author in the creation of the work.

Every graduate student must begin to ask about Copyright ownership of their work before they accept any offer for advanced study.

Smart universities will use the Copyright card as an enticement — “You create it, you own it!” That philosophy will entice excellent graduate students into their programs.

When a university guarantees its students full ownership of their creations, everyone wins because the original inspiration is legally protected from institutional thievery and future legal dismay.

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