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Resources to navigate throughout your career


"Can I use this if I cite the original work and give credit to the author?"

This seems to be the recurring question ..... and the answer is "no".  When using another person's work without giving credit, one commits plagiarism, an ethical transgression that may lead to censure within professional circles.  On the other hand, a copyright violation is the use of a protected work without permission and is a legal infringement that is punishable by law.  In addition, an author of a work is not necessarily the copyright holder.

Not Exactly Copyright, But .....

Overtime, you will be engaged in creative efforts that do not fit neatly under the Copyright umbrella, but still require some basic knowledge to manage, or at least be aware of issues to be able to ask relevant questions.  Some of these topics may never become critically important, but awareness of their potential role in both professional and personal endeavors can prove useful.


Although data is not eligible for copyright protection, scientists are often engaged in research design, data collection and management that eventually result in copyrightable publications.  When creating data management plans, care must be taken to address security, access and privacy issues.  This is especially important when collaboration occurs between scientists from different institutions (sometimes countries), each with their own network policies and definition of proprietary information.


Patents deal with inventions rather than expressions.  As in copyright, an "inventor" may apply for patent protection for a defined period of time during which the individual or organization can be the sole beneficiary of the profits from the invention.  Patents can apply to PROCESSESMACHINES,ARTICLES OF MANUFACTURECOMPOSITION OF MATTER, or an improvement to any of these.  Additional information can be found at the USPTO web site.  Both industry and academia have institutional policies governing how an employee would contribute and benefit from his/her participation in work that result in patents, both during employment and after termination, and should be carefully reviewed.  An example is the Penn State policy.


A trademark is used to uniquely represent a brand or company, and can be a word, a symbol, a sound, or a combination of them.  It is an identity in the marketplace to connect a product to the producer.  Trademarks are managed by the same agency within the Department of Commerce that deals with Patents.  Additional information on Trademarks can also be found at  the USTPO web site.

Employment Considerations

This part of the guide touches on some things to consider as your career evolves.  There will be opportunities to ask questions at interviews, and you should take advantage of them.  Any job offer will likely come with piles of documents to sign, and the answers to these issues can be helpful in understanding what you are agreeing to and how things can be expected to work.

Before you sign on the Dotted Line:

Find out what Existing Policies and Resources are in place that you are expected to comply with, and what resources are available to support the effort.  For example:  Is there a faculty agreement to make available their publications for open dissemination (e.g. MIT Policy)?

Termination Issues

This is relevant in instances of share ownership, most likely in academic institutions.  It may be wise to ask questions such as these when hired and not waiting till the exit interview .....

  1. Can I teach a course I created "here" later at another institution?
  2. Is there a profit-sharing plan for royalties after departure?
  3. Will material for a course be used/modified by another individual after the original faculty leaves?

Work For Hire

Work Made For Hire concept refers to works of authorship or creativity that is done by an employee within his/her scope of employment, during work hours and with the use of the employer's resources.  Based on that definition the employer will hold copyright ownership of its employees' works.  Employment contracts may show variations to this.