Openness and employee rights 

Are you facing an unclear copyright agreement? With contracts, accuracy is vital.

Text Mikko Pelttari Images istockphoto

Are there downsides to open science? 

Open science is a fantastic goal promoted by the state, the Ministry of Education and Culture, universities, the Academy of Finland and other funders of scientific research. However, there are unresolved issues of ambiguity in the implementation of open science.

From the employee’s point of view, the biggest concern is related to copyrights for research and teaching materials and publications. 

Freedom of higher education is enshrined in the constitution, but more and more universities are demanding open access to teaching materials.

What copyright issues can openness lead to? 

Freedom of higher education is enshrined in the constitution, but more and more universities are demanding open access to teaching materials. A new draft of the copyright act curtails researchers’ and teachers’ entitlement to copyright their own materials, but this much-criticized step backward has been left out of the latest proposal.

There are also problems with the openness of publication, especially with regard to who pays for such openness. In particular, the costs of publishing monographs should be agreed upon so that Finnish scientific publishing does not collapse entirely. 

When do I need to be careful? 

Some universities offer new employees a copyright agreement in which the employee transfers the copyrights arising from the employment relationship to the university. These contracts have been offered to university researchers, and new employees in particular face difficulties if being asked to sign the contract simultaneously with their employment contract.

The transfer of copyright has even been justified by a future amendment to the law, although that article is not coming into force in the copyright act. The rule of thumb is that comprehensive copyright transfers should not simply be signed but agreed upon on case by case. 

comprehensive copyright transfers should not simply be signed but agreed upon on case by case.

When should I get help? 

Copyright agreements are often long and complex. The law says that a transfer of copyright can be agreed upon when the contract is not unreasonable, but such unreasonableness can be terribly difficult to determine. If you are unable to assess the contract alone, don’t worry. The lawyers in your union will help. 

Leevi Mentula, Head of Employment Relationship Affairs for the Finnish Union of University Professors, answered the questions.  

Recommended articles

Families in Focus

The negotiations of this spring are done on the universities’ part, and an agreement has been reached. The family leave reform was packaged into the collective agreement, but it did not come free of charge.