I raised this issue with faculty staff in Birkbeck a year ago and got a very vague answer – which sounded pretty much like “the university has copyright in your work but we won’t enforce it.”
I honesty do not know whether that is true or not and, in fact, the phrase I was required to apply to my MSc project report – “the report my be freely copied and distributed provided the source is explicitly acknowledged” – would represent a breach of the GNU GPL if the university sought to apply it to the Linux patch code which currently sites in my Git repo. (Of course we can argue as to whether or not I have actually distributed anything, and the answer is probably no).
I was left slightly dissatified by the official response to my question, because it suggested the college did not really take the issue seriously, which, given that it is at the heart of some long-running and extremely important debates in software development and distribution seems odd. Though, to be fair, I think the concern was more that someone would try to “go proprietary” on their software rather than allow it to be shared as part of the academic commons.
I would share that concern, of course. But it would not take much effort to allow students to pick from a range of licensing terms that would both protect the college’s desire to share and reuse any software or ideas present in the work while ensuring that other, necessary, licensing constraints are met.
- Ask Slashdot: Best Copyright Terms For a Thesis? (ask.slashdot.org)
- Do I Need A Copyright? (worldofpoets.wordpress.com)
- Profs ditch course material over copyright confusion (ctv.ca)
- License or Contract?: the form of the Open Source license (atrilife.wordpress.com)
- An abusive reform of copyright law (cartesianproduct.wordpress.com)