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Overview of Copyright Requirements

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To be protected by copyright, the work must be the product of the author's independent and original creative work. This condition is usually met if it can be assumed that no-one else would have produced a similar work, had they undertaken to create one. There are no other requirements to achieving copyright protection. With regard to the required level of originality, it is irrelevant whether the work is a diploma work or an exercise, or whether it was created in class.

However, copyright does not extend to ideas, themes or information, only the form they are expressed in. Thus, two people can write an article on the same topic or design a computer program to realize the same idea without it constituting copyright infringement.

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Transferring Rights to the University

To fulfill the legal duties, the universities' everyday activities require that they have the right to use a student's exercises and diploma works. To ensure this, a student enrolling to a university usually signs an agreement with the university relating to the use of exercise and diploma works. With this agreement, the student gives the university the limited right to use their exercises and diploma works for normal non-commercial activities. This usually refers to teaching, research, public relations and library activities. This relates only to the right to use, and the copyright to any exercise and diploma works remains with the student.

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Screen-shot of Optika service in the intranet of the Aalto University School of Art and Design
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In more detail, the right of ownership to the work as a physical object is created to the university if the exercise is made from the university's materials, such as art supplies. Students usually have the opportunity to buy their works made from the university's materials by compensating the university for the material costs. Copyright is an incorporeal right, and students hold the copyrights to their works regardless of who owns the physical objects. In other words, the university must obtain permission from students to exploit their works in a way that is protected by copyright, unless such exploitation does not fall under the scope of any exception provided in the Copyright Act. It is standard practice in Finnish art universities that at the beginning of their studies, students grant the university the right to exploit the works they create during their studies. At the Aalto Inside these agreements can be viewed.

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External Funding

The owner of works produced in various projects that are realized with external funding is either the financier of the project or the university, depending on the agreement. Usually the external financier requires that any copyrights and other incorporeal rights are transferred to the university with the right of further transfer. In practice, this means that students must fully transfer their copyrights to works created during the project. The transfer of copyright is usually implemented with an agreement relating to the project. For example, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation TEKES requires that all copyrights and other incorporeal rights related to projects it finances are transferred from the researchers and students to the university with the right of further transfer [1]. The right of further transfer makes it possible to exploit the results of the projects outside the university.

However, authors can transfer their moral rights only partially, and those usually remain with the authors. For example, despite the full transfer of copyrights, the students have the right to be acknowledged as authors in accordance with the principle of proper usage.

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Competition Rules as Copyright Agreement

Students participate in several artistic competitions. The rules of these competitions sometimes function as an agreement concerning the copyright of participants. The organization behind the competition can only receive copyright by agreement. By accepting the rules of the competition, the student is bound by these rules even if they involve agreement on copyright.

Notes and References

[1] Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation TEKES