Copyright FAQ


The copyright information depends on who currently owns the copyright. If the content of the technical report has not yet been accepted for publication by ACM, IEEE or similar organization, authors are the copyright holders. You retain that copyright when you submit the technical report, but the Department asks you to grant it certain rights, such as the right to include the technical report in collections of such reports or external listings.

If the technical report is essentially the same as a paper published by ACM, IEEE or another publisher, the details depend on the publisher. Some publishers do not allow you to publish the content again. Others, like ACM, require you to add text to your document.


Unless the student was paid and is thus a university employee, the student owns the copyright. If faculty intend to re-use the program for other purposes, they would have to get the student’s permission or have the student release the program under a suitable open-source license. It may well be worth discussing this with the student early in the semester. Faculty may refuse to supervise a project student who refuses to open-source the material (or create another mutually agreeable license), for example, but it would be unfair to tell the student after the add-drop period. The Columbia copyright policy speaks to this general topic:

“Columbia will hold rights in copyright to works of authorship that are created at the University by faculty, research staff, and others and that are supported by a direct allocation of University funds, are commissioned by the University, make substantial use of financial or logistical support from the University beyond the level of common resources provided to faculty, or are otherwise subject to contractual obligations.”

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