Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Academic advisor | CAUT
Back to top

Academic advisor

Academic advisor

B.E. of Edmonton writes:

I’ve been asked to sign a contract waiving my “moral rights” in material I created for an online course. Bad idea?

David Robinson, CAUT executive director, answers:

Yes, it’s a bad idea. Here’s why. Copyright provides economic rights, such as the right to sell a work. But it also grants moral rights protecting the personal connection between you and the works you author. Specifically, moral rights protect authorship rights (your right to claim authorship, remain anonymous, or use a pseudonym); integrity rights (your right to prevent a work from being modified in a way prejudicial to your honour/reputation); and association rights (the right to prevent the use of your work in association with a product, service, cause, or institution that is similarly prejudicial). Moral rights are so important they cannot be sold. To be extinguished, they must be voluntarily waived by contract. What could happen if you waive them? Your course material could be shoddily revised without your approval and your name still listed as the author, making you look bad. It could be left as is, and your name taken off, denying you credit. Even worse, it could be shoddily modified, with your name still on it, and included in the curriculum of the likes of Trump University. Everyone from university administrations to private schools are trying to gain complete control of course content. In this environment, your moral rights are the last line of defence against total exploitation. The upshot is — never sign them away.

Academic Advisor offers advice about your rights at work. To send in a question, write to Please include a daytime telephone number.


September 2016

Commentary / Canadian campuses in the Middle East

When oil prices were high and rulers in the Middle East were wealthy beyond the dreams of... Read more
September 2016

President's message / In praise of scandal

A scandal can sometimes be like eating your broccoli — you may not like it, but it just might... Read more
September 2016

Interview / Alison Hearn

Tell us about yourself. What are your teaching and research interests? I’m an associate... Read more