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Copyright Blog

Doctor Claims University Creates Copyright Injury

Doctor files Complaint against former employer for alleged infringement of her copyrights.

On May 11, 2020, Dr. Sharon Griswold ("Griswold") filed a Complaint against her former employer, Drexel University (the "University"), for willful infringement of copyrights she claims to solely hold in courses she developed while working for the University.

According to the Complaint, Griswold was instrumental in the development of the University's Master of Science in Medical and Health Simulation program and personally designed or co-designed the program's curriculum and courses. Griswold claims that the University, after placing Griswold on Administrative Leave late in 2019 and choosing not to renew her contract in early 2020, opted, without Griswold's authorization, to continue teaching the courses she authored.

Griswold points to the University's former and current copyright policies to support her claim that she owns the copyright in the courses. In the Complaint Griswold acknowledges that the University policy does allow the University a license to the materials in certain exigent situations, such as a last minute unavailability of the instructor to teach the course, but Griswold disputes that the current situation qualifies as an exigent circumstance.

Griswold claims 100% copyright ownership of the courses, and has registered copyrights for three of the courses with the U.S. Copyright Office, although COVID-19 has prevented the office from providing her with official certificates for the latter two registrations.

Griswold is seeking, among other things, an injunction prohibiting the University from use of the courses; an order requiring the University to destroy the Griswold-owned materials it has in its possession; and monetary damages (statutory or actual) for the infringement.