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Thread: Right To Publishing a Deceased lecturer's Material

  1. #1 Right To Publishing a Deceased lecturer's Material 
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    Since no other text book existed on the subject in question, my late father compiled information typed in textbook form from which he taught at a university in Europe for 15 years. Photocopies were made for both student and teacher use on an “as needed basis.” The university has continued to use his teaching material for over twenty years after his death without compensation to his family. Two lecturers of the university have now allegedly revised his book without informing or seeking permission from our family members and have had the material transferred onto electronic devices to facilitate online learning/work for interested students and teachers of that subject. Since then, unexpected increase in demand for this book has caused said lecturers to have the same material compiled into regular textbook form at never a monetary compensation to the family. Please can anyone advise me on legal course in this fraudulent matter. Thanks.


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    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Oh, sorry to hear this, Stargate! There are attorneys who specialize in this work...seek one out ASAP!! But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do. I would imagine that the university wouldn't put itself in legal hot water, over a text book, if that were the case. But, I'd seek a lawyer for your own clarification.


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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    I understand that you are upset and why you are upset. What I now say is simply an opinion. I have produced months worth of course material, including presentations, exercises, workbooks and manuals. That material is the property of the company I work for. That what they paid me to do. A worker in a car plant can't reasonably claim that he is entitled to take one of the cars because he made it. (It's an analogy, not a equivalence.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    I understand that you are upset and why you are upset. What I now say is simply an opinion. I have produced months worth of course material, including presentations, exercises, workbooks and manuals. That material is the property of the company I work for. That what they paid me to do. A worker in a car plant can't reasonably claim that he is entitled to take one of the cars because he made it. (It's an analogy, not a equivalence.)
    Thanks John. We do have the original manuscript, plus we have two other books that were follow ups like vol 1. and vol 2. is there any way that that can help us?
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do.
    Firstly, any work you create will automatically be copyrighted. You don't need to do anything to get copyright protection.

    But ... the problem is: who owns the copyright? As he did the work as part of his employment, then the copyright would normally belong the the employer (I think that is a normal part of employment law in most jurisdictions). Unless there was a specific term in his contract of employment that granted him the copyright.

    However, as with medical problems, the only reasonable advice anyone here can give is: talk to a lawyer.
    ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Thanks John. We do have the original manuscript, plus we have two other books that were follow ups like vol 1. and vol 2. is there any way that that can help us?
    May I be direct. Is your concern:
    1. Primarily for financial recompense?
    2. Primarily recognition for your deceased father?
    3. Other?

    I have a huge amount of sympathy for 2. I would have thought that the lecturers who have adapted the book would likely be amenable to giving proper credit to your father's work. (Dana's Mineralogy was first published in 1948. The latest edition contains almost nothing of the original work, but it retains the name of its founder.) I am much less comfortable if your position is 1. That's just a personal viewpoint. As others have said: consult a lawyer.
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  8. #7  
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    If this is in the US you might not like the law on this one.

    Most teachers fall under rules of "work made for hire," which means any original works produced by the teacher ultimately belong to the employer (e.g. company, school district, university etc.).

    If however, the teacher was hired as a independent contract, the material ownership is retained by the one contracted (or the company hired to fill it).

    For the Specific case law, look up Community for Creative Non Violence vs. Reid, 490. U.S 730 (1989)

    See a lawyer. If nothing else the school might be willing to give recognition, especially if he was well respected, even if you can't legally force the issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do.
    Firstly, any work you create will automatically be copyrighted. You don't need to do anything to get copyright protection.

    But ... the problem is: who owns the copyright? As he did the work as part of his employment, then the copyright would normally belong the the employer (I think that is a normal part of employment law in most jurisdictions). Unless there was a specific term in his contract of employment that granted him the copyright.

    However, as with medical problems, the only reasonable advice anyone here can give is: talk to a lawyer.
    Thanks Strange.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    If this is in the US you might not like the law on this one.

    Most teachers fall under rules of "work made for hire," which means any original works produced by the teacher ultimately belong to the employer (e.g. company, school district, university etc.).

    If however, the teacher was hired as a independent contract, the material ownership is retained by the one contracted (or the company hired to fill it).

    For the Specific case law, look up Community for Creative Non Violence vs. Reid, 490. U.S 730 (1989)

    See a lawyer. If nothing else the school might be willing to give recognition, especially if he was well respected, even if you can't legally force the issue.
    Thanks guys, I appreciate this very much.
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  11. #10  
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do.
    Firstly, any work you create will automatically be copyrighted. You don't need to do anything to get copyright protection.

    But ... the problem is: who owns the copyright? As he did the work as part of his employment, then the copyright would normally belong the the employer (I think that is a normal part of employment law in most jurisdictions). Unless there was a specific term in his contract of employment that granted him the copyright.

    However, as with medical problems, the only reasonable advice anyone here can give is: talk to a lawyer.
    U.S. Copyright Office - What Does Copyright Protect? (FAQ) I'm wondering if Stargate's father's text would even be protected under a copyright, since the material was not an original literary work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do.
    Firstly, any work you create will automatically be copyrighted. You don't need to do anything to get copyright protection.

    But ... the problem is: who owns the copyright? As he did the work as part of his employment, then the copyright would normally belong the the employer (I think that is a normal part of employment law in most jurisdictions). Unless there was a specific term in his contract of employment that granted him the copyright.

    However, as with medical problems, the only reasonable advice anyone here can give is: talk to a lawyer.
    U.S. Copyright Office - What Does Copyright Protect? (FAQ) I'm wondering if Stargate's father's text would even be protected under a copyright, since the material was not an original literary work.
    Wegs, I am so thankful, I think you are on to something. I am reading the info and have sighted that we have the original copy, it leaves to understand, where did the university get the copy they have published. My dad did not give the university authority to publish his work, they did that from the copies he used while teaching there.

    Everyone is saying I should get a lawyer, so I am gathering all the info I can before consulting a lawyer. Thanks again, will let everyone helping know what happens.
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  13. #12  
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    A stunning continuation of complete failure to understand what has been posted.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    I'm wondering if Stargate's father's text would even be protected under a copyright, since the material was not an original literary work.
    As Stargate said:
    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Since no other text book existed on the subject in question...
    Then it is clearly original. And it is a written (literary) work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    I am reading the info and have sighted that we have the original copy, it leaves to understand, where did the university get the copy they have published.
    That is irrelevant. If they own copyright (which, unfortunately, they probably do) then it doesn't matter where they got the copy from.

    Note that if they own the copyright, then you cannot copy or otherwise exploit the material you have.

    My dad did not give the university authority to publish his work, they did that from the copies he used while teaching there.
    He probably gave them permission when he signed his contract of employment.

    Or possibly not. Which is why you need a lawyer.
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  15. #14  
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargate View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    But, if he didn't have it copyrighted in any way, then, there might not be much from a legal standpoint that you can do.
    Firstly, any work you create will automatically be copyrighted. You don't need to do anything to get copyright protection.

    But ... the problem is: who owns the copyright? As he did the work as part of his employment, then the copyright would normally belong the the employer (I think that is a normal part of employment law in most jurisdictions). Unless there was a specific term in his contract of employment that granted him the copyright.

    However, as with medical problems, the only reasonable advice anyone here can give is: talk to a lawyer.
    U.S. Copyright Office - What Does Copyright Protect? (FAQ) I'm wondering if Stargate's father's text would even be protected under a copyright, since the material was not an original literary work.
    Wegs, I am so thankful, I think you are on to something. I am reading the info and have sighted that we have the original copy, it leaves to understand, where did the university get the copy they have published. My dad did not give the university authority to publish his work, they did that from the copies he used while teaching there.

    Everyone is saying I should get a lawyer, so I am gathering all the info I can before consulting a lawyer. Thanks again, will let everyone helping know what happens.
    As others have said, lol seek legal counsel. But, I want to ask you just something for you and your family to ponder. Which is...what is your motivation behind this? To seek financial compensation? If so, why? It was your father's work. Is it about the principle? That part, I can see you being angry over, but then again...what (might) your dad have wanted? Clearly he was very generous with his intellectual capital, so to speak. Would he have wanted the university to continue on 'using' his work? (for want of a better word, I choose the word 'use.') If your dad was that concerned, he honestly should have set up better legal provisions for you/your family with respect to this whole thing. And that somewhat leads me to think, that he wanted maybe for the university to carry on with utilizing work, in his absence. (without thought to the financial/legal aspects of it) (In other words, this piece of things didn't seem to come into play for your dad, why is it an issue for you and your family?) I'm not judging your decision, or desire to pursue this, know that. Not for me to judge. I'm merely suggesting that you all objectively ask yourselves, why you want to pursue legal counsel to begin with? If it's based on principle, I see that. If you want to be compensated (on your father's behalf), I'm not sure it's a hill worth dying on.
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    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    As has already been strongly indicated: it's worth getting a look at your father's contract of employment before you even consider engaging a lawyer.
    If it's shown that his contract assigned rights to his employer then you won't have a leg to stand on.

    I once was asked to sign a contract that not only assigned rights to the company for things I designed - even if I designed them in my spare time at home (as is normal in the UK) - because I was employed as an engineering designer, but also legally bound me to assign rights for methods and concepts AND to ensure that the company had those rights by me paying any fees required to register them to the company.
    The boss was somewhat taken aback when I amended that portion of the contract by hand with the words "within reason". When he said that no other employees had quibbled I replied that "Do you seriously expect me to spend money on making sure YOU have the rights to parametric studies of combat helicopter performance? What f*cking good would they do you?" The company made small (<10m2) heat exchangers for industrial use.
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    Stargate, Wegs has made the same points as I made earlier, though rather more pointedly. Why are you doing this? It increasingly comes across that you are simply after the money. If so, I find that rather distasteful. I would be horrified if my family tried to obtain money from my employer after I am dead because they continue to use my material. I want them to continue to use if for as long as it is relevant. That is my small legacy to the human race. If you simply want the university to acknowledge your father's contribution, then the way you seem to be going about it is not the way.
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    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Those are great points, John. Stargate, I don't judge you or your family's intentions. Part of me senses that your desire to do this stems from not wanting your deceased father's work to be in vain, or to be misused or taken advantage of, and without knowing all the facts, you might feel that is the underlying intent of the university. I can only guess that your father would have been honored to have his work benefit future generations. Not many people leave a footprint like that. And for what it's worth...my dad died when I was a young girl. I know what it's like to keep hanging onto a ghost, because in some way too, this 'situation' makes you feel connected to him. Ultimately, it is your call, but just be honest with yourself as to why you wish to pursue this avenue. The answers might surprise you.
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    A heartfelt post wegs - thank you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    As has already been strongly indicated: it's worth getting a look at your father's contract of employment before you even consider engaging a lawyer.
    If it's shown that his contract assigned rights to his employer then you won't have a leg to stand on.

    I once was asked to sign a contract that not only assigned rights to the company for things I designed - even if I designed them in my spare time at home (as is normal in the UK) - because I was employed as an engineering designer, but also legally bound me to assign rights for methods and concepts AND to ensure that the company had those rights by me paying any fees required to register them to the company.
    The boss was somewhat taken aback when I amended that portion of the contract by hand with the words "within reason". When he said that no other employees had quibbled I replied that "Do you seriously expect me to spend money on making sure YOU have the rights to parametric studies of combat helicopter performance? What f*cking good would they do you?" The company made small (<10m2) heat exchangers for industrial use.
    Thanks Dy for the information.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    Those are great points, John. Stargate, I don't judge you or your family's intentions. Part of me senses that your desire to do this stems from not wanting your deceased father's work to be in vain, or to be misused or taken advantage of, and without knowing all the facts, you might feel that is the underlying intent of the university. I can only guess that your father would have been honored to have his work benefit future generations. Not many people leave a footprint like that. And for what it's worth...my dad died when I was a young girl. I know what it's like to keep hanging onto a ghost, because in some way too, this 'situation' makes you feel connected to him. Ultimately, it is your call, but just be honest with yourself as to why you wish to pursue this avenue. The answers might surprise you.
    Wegs, I appreciate the questions that you are asking. The family is not so much after money. Dad put in a lot of work writing those books and offering his services for the students he taught, he did not do it for monetary gain. We the rest of the family kind of neglected following up the whole process of the books, and really did not know what was happening on that front until we were made aware by someone still working at the university that the the books were modified. It led to some family members asking how could they change the books without letting the family know about it. We then found out that the books were sold for $ 38.00 but not a penny was given to the family. My family knew that my father did not do the work for money so they never really looked to reap any benefits. Most of all what we want is to make sure that my dad's work be recognized so that his grandchildren can see what he contributed to the uplifting of his people. As we have discovered that the book is being sold for so much money and no one in the family is being given anything it would be nice for the family to reap some of the benefits. However the monetary side is not half as important as the preservation of his work. John Galt had pointed that out to me in one of his post, and I mentioned it to the family who all want to make sure dad's legacy is preserved. These two books are used all over the world and was written with lots of love and devotion, you can imagine we do not want his work to be tampered with.

    I do thank you for your input together with all the others who has helped to give me information.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Stargate, Wegs has made the same points as I made earlier, though rather more pointedly. Why are you doing this? It increasingly comes across that you are simply after the money. If so, I find that rather distasteful. I would be horrified if my family tried to obtain money from my employer after I am dead because they continue to use my material. I want them to continue to use if for as long as it is relevant. That is my small legacy to the human race. If you simply want the university to acknowledge your father's contribution, then the way you seem to be going about it is not the way.
    John, I thank you for your input and help, I can assure you we the family are not really after money, however, since they are now selling the book we thought the family should also get something. Dad did not write those books for money and was quite happy to have contributed to the university and the standard offered.
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  23. #22  
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    Stargate, than you for describing in more detail your concerns on this. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    I would like to raise, or expand on, one further point you may wish to consider. I believe that in most cases that a university lecturer has prepared notes in book form for their students these are likely to be quite informal. Spelling and grammar may not have been rigorously checked; references may be incomplete, or listed in an inconsistent fashion; diagrams may rough sketches; tables and figures may not be properly annotated; structural divisions of the text may be haphazard; some material may be out of date. This would be quite normal.

    To bring the work up to the necessary standard for formal publication would inevitably involve a great deal of work. I know you feel this would be tampering with your father's legacy, but a closer analogy, for me, would be restoring a classic art work. In some respects the university may feel they have paid for the work twice over: once when the material was assemnbled by your father, then when it was adapted for publication. Do keep that in mind.

    I think your stongest case, regardless of the legal position, lies in the simple ethical request that the original authorship by your father be fully acknowledged in future printings of the work with, perhaps, an apology in wirting that this was not done to begin with. (The latter might be difficult to acquire since it could be used by you in pursuit of payment.)

    Again, as noted before, none of us are equipped to provide legal advice. These are simply some thoughts you might wish to consider when discussing the matter with a lawyer.

    Good luck with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Stargate, than you for describing in more detail your concerns on this. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

    I would like to raise, or expand on, one further point you may wish to consider. I believe that in most cases that a university lecturer has prepared notes in book form for their students these are likely to be quite informal. Spelling and grammar may not have been rigorously checked; references may be incomplete, or listed in an inconsistent fashion; diagrams may rough sketches; tables and figures may not be properly annotated; structural divisions of the text may be haphazard; some material may be out of date. This would be quite normal.

    To bring the work up to the necessary standard for formal publication would inevitably involve a great deal of work. I know you feel this would be tampering with your father's legacy, but a closer analogy, for me, would be restoring a classic art work. In some respects the university may feel they have paid for the work twice over: once when the material was assemnbled by your father, then when it was adapted for publication. Do keep that in mind.

    I think your stongest case, regardless of the legal position, lies in the simple ethical request that the original authorship by your father be fully acknowledged in future printings of the work with, perhaps, an apology in wirting that this was not done to begin with. (The latter might be difficult to acquire since it could be used by you in pursuit of payment.)

    Again, as noted before, none of us are equipped to provide legal advice. These are simply some thoughts you might wish to consider when discussing the matter with a lawyer.

    Good luck with it.
    Thanks John, I on behalf of my family appreciate this very much.
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