This Concerns Us, Too

During the times of corona, we have, in an unmatched way, transitioned from lecture courses organized as contact teaching to remote teaching and to remote study materials that are always available. In one fell swoop, remote meetings and remote conferences have become a part of the everyday.

The digital leap has brought a lot of good things: library and administrative systems have been made to work remotely, feedback gained from teaching has predominantly improved and time that was previously spent on traveling can be spent, for example, on resting or on spending time together with those close to us.

But at the same time, there is a constant feeling that everything is not alright. People toil at work without breaks, time management is difficult, the work community remains distant and cultural experiences diminish. I believe there is no going back: not in teaching, not in research, not in management or support activities. The university has transitioned to the time of social media. It is open on the internet day and night, around the year, here and now.

The pandemic has accelerated the transition to remote work that has been on the horizon for a long time, and along with it metawork – work that explains work activities – has increased. Metawork is needed more than before when expressions, gestures and nonverbal cues are not there to promote spontaneous cooperation and to build trust. When work becomes networked, trust is precisely what is needed.

For example, open science requires the rights of works and materials to be clear; they need to be agreed on and described before the materials can be made available to the public for free. In addition to course materials, also recordings and their meta and usage information needs to be updated. For materials, we need to record the description, licence and usage limitations information, the storage and archival plan and for example information about representatives, those responsible and the usage and presentation of materials. Increased metawork is the price we must pay for general usability, digital sharing and for using previously created materials while respecting creators’ rights.

The Finnish Union of University Professors takes a dim view of general agreements on copyright transfer: blindly transferring past, present and future rights does not benefit those who do creative work. The copyright working group of our union has, at times pointedly, commented on copyright issues, and there are a few important practical and principled reasons for this.

A researcher’s right to choose their publication channels is the starting point of scientific freedom, and it requires that researchers can control their works. In Finland, this is secured by the so-called researcher exception.

When we aim for openness, we need to remember that the creator’s exclusive right to decide about the use of their work is an even more central motivational factor of scientific and societal impact in a digitalising environment. The creator holds the power to decide about, for example, the reproduction of the work, copying, modification and making the work available to the public and the right to be compensated for the use of the work.

Despite harmonisation attempts, the funding and implementation conditions of research vary, and this requires project-specific agreements particularly in multilateral projects. Demanding copyright transfer as a condition for forming an employment contract is unreasonable.

Fortunately, the matter has been taken up, among others, by Tampere University, where a newish copyright agreement balances the researcher’s and the university’s interests in accordance with the university’s innovation and invention policy. Similar endeavours can be seen in the medical fields’ MEDigi project, where a balanced agreement on cross-utilising teaching materials in a clean-cut and timely manner is being created as a by-product.

The IPR animations that illustrate the Finnish Union of University Professors’ copyright recommendations are about to be ready. JUKO (The Negotiation Organisation for Public Sector Professionals) is creating copyright instructions for members of the university community. Developments do not, however, happen on their own. Local activities play a central role so that copyrightrelated matters will come to be known by the unions and JUKO and can be solved together based on facts.

Translation: Elina Siltanen

Jukka Heikkilä
Chair, The Finnish Union of University Professors

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