Exempting Harvard’s Librarian-Scholars From the Work-for-Hire Doctrine

Librarians and library staff at all Harvard libraries, schools, departments, and units make significant contributions to their fields by writing and publishing scholarship.

Harvard Library actively supports open access to research, and the open-access policies adopted by Harvard faculty. Open access through DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard), Harvard’s open-access repository, provides access to readers who are unable to pay subscriptions or other access fees.

Just as we support open access to scholarship by Harvard faculty, we support open access to scholarship by Harvard librarians and library staff. In keeping with this commitment, the Library announces two initiatives: a new voluntary Individual Open-Access License and a new work-for-hire exception for library staff who publish scholarship.

The Individual Open-Access License officially launched on October 22, 2018.

As of this announcement, Harvard Library states that it does not consider works written by librarians or library staff to be “works for hire” under copyright law when the works are:
•    scholarly articles
•    written principally on non-work time; and
•    written outside the scope of employment [1]

When these conditions are met, Harvard librarians and library staff will own the copyrights in these works, just as faculty own the copyrights in their works. Among other things, this will enable librarians and library staff to grant certain nonexclusive rights to the University, as faculty have done through the school-level open-access policies, in order  to remove legal obstacles to making their work open access through DASH.

The Individual Open-Access License is a simple form designed to facilitate open access in just that way. It will give Harvard librarians and library staff (and other non-faculty authors at Harvard) the same benefits in this respect as Harvard faculty, by giving them the same rights to make their work open access. To take advantage of this option, and gain these benefits, Harvard librarians and library staff should sign the new Individual Open-Access License form.

Because the license applies to future works not yet written, not to previously published works, and because it includes a waiver option or opt-out for any given work, we encourage all librarians and library staff who plan to publish scholarship to sign the form before they submit their next scholarly article for publication.

I hope you will join our continued efforts to support open access by contributing your scholarship to DASH.

Sarah Thomas
Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian
Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

1 By writings outside the “scope of employment” we mean writings not specifically assigned as part of the author’s job or work assignment, or not the kind of work the staff member is employed to perform. Examples of work within the scope of employment include but are not limited to library web content, collection development plans, library bibliographies, and research guides.