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Teaching Projects as Shared Projects

A significant part of our teaching consists of project work, in which student teams work together to achieve a project goal.

For these teaching projects (Lehrprojekte), we require that all project participants (students, university, possibly external partners) share in the results so that everyone can make use of them once the project has finished.

However, the way universities and the legal system are set-up, students exclusively own the work they do while performing course work. Because of this exclusivity, without further precautions, any student in a student team can stop everyone else from using the team’s results.

For our projects, we want everyone to receive equal rights to the work results. Then every participant can do with the results whatever they want. Our particular interest is to empower student startups. If everyone in a team shares in the results, everyone individually, or in sub-teams, or the whole team, can take the results with them into a startup.

To make this legally possible, we ask students to sign a contributor agreement. Through the particular contributor agreement we use, a student gives the professorship non-exclusive usage rights plus a relicensing right to the individual work results. The professorship then gives all project partners equal rights back. So the student provides usage rights to his or her own work and receives back usage rights from everyone else. This creates a symmetric situation in which everyone acquires the right to use the project results in any way they want.

This does not imply open source projects. Sometimes, with software, it makes sense to turn a shared project into an open source project, sometimes not. In any case, all students receive full usage rights. After the project ended they can do with the software whatever they want, including developing it further as closed source software.

In case of questions, feel free to comment below or to contact us directly.


This blog post is (c) 2016 Dirk Riehle, some rights reserved. It is licensed CC-BY 4.0 so do whatever you want with it within the limits (not many) of the license and as long as you attribute the original author and link back here: https://wp.me/pDU66-2p4.