Time to redefine ownership of college projects?

Share this Article


Back in my university days, when we were the final year students, our biggest problem in lives used to be making of Final Year Project that has to be both innovative and functional. Some expert programmers and developers actually did manage to do that yet they couldn’t sell their work because university has clear cut policy that university projects are solely their right and cannot be sell to industry unless you’re doing a sponsored project for a corporation. Back in those days it made sense that any project done for academic purposes using university facilities belongs to university.Recently I came across an article ‘Whose IP is it anyway’ that made me think should university have the right to own your work?

There was a recent controversy about the controversy around the American gaming institute DigiPen Institute of Technology and four graduate students lead by Zach Aikman. These students developed award winning game in 2008 and were approached by several publishers yet they couldn’t sell the game because it was owned by their university so they decided to sell play mechanics but they were banned by their university to do that. University has the complete right on art, assets, codes and IPs and they refuse to make an exception in their case as well, according to Aikman words which are quoted from here.

“We knew the school owned the copyright on all the art, the assets, and the code, but you can’t copyright play mechanics. So, after we graduated, we began talking about taking the game concept and starting from scratch with different code.”

DigiPen was not amused and reiterated its claim to all intellectual property developed at the school, including derivatives of such work:

They were dead set on not setting a precedent because, if they let us keep the IP, they were afraid other students would want the same. But I believe there’s something wrong with the idea of DigiPen owning games it has no intention of doing anything with, while discouraging people like me who could really make use of our efforts and use it as a springboard to a career.

It’s like going to an art school and creating a painting while you’re there. Does the school own the art that took so much of your time and effort? I don’t see why the same thing shouldn’t apply to games.

His words had me all nodding my head and agreeing to he said but during my research for this article, I came across the strong defensive approach by Comair, the founder of DigiPen.

Our policy, which has been our policy since day one and which is laid out in our student agreement, is very clear—everything that is done within the school and presented as homework or as a product to be judged by a teacher ends up being the property of the school. IP, code, artwork, everything…..Students come to DIT to learn and get the most out of their education, not to ship a game they created at school for profit. We are a school, not a production house, and therefore our goal is for the students to gain the knowledge and experience they need to be successful in the field. We may lose students based on our IP policy, but this is not as important to me as is maintaining the quality of the education.

I don’t agree on this but I can see his point of view. There is a heavy discussion already going on, those who are interested in can check this and this. It’s not like my verdict will solve this issue but still I like to make one anyway, students at least have some of the rights of their product if not all because its their hard work and creativity that lead to create such good products and university tools are just tools that facilitate their creation so its their right to retain at least half of ownership. What do you say?

Facebook comments:


  • I agree!!!

    When we developed our FYP we thought it was a unique idea and we can earn sum bucks out of it..I wouldn’t say we did something extraordinary but it was something we were really proud of.. 😀

    We were told that students cannot sell the projects commercially and that the university must be given the correct source code and executable and documents. We were even asked to attach a printed copy of source code with the documentation.

    Afer 2 years, when I went back to my uni with an idea to the FYP advisor I was told I can choose a group but these students cannot sell this idea.

    Why cant we do that???

    I think we need to put this up with the universities…

  • It is not just students, but teachers also, who face this issue. I recetnly had interaction with a Agri University and the Head of Department had developed 4 different products, which he was not commercializing, as he did not trust the University / HEC to give him a fair share of the royalties (can’t say, I blame him, considering the horror stories, I heard).

    But there is a bigger issue, how many students do work on innovative projects / assignments as part of their studies and how many end up doing CCP (Cut, Copy & Paste)???

  • Perhaps the best idea is to go open-source, a GPL sort of licensing for your projects. This way nobody owns anything except the one who is most knowledgeable.

    The professors in my university in Sweden work on a theorem prover with the name of KeY. This project was started in a university in Karlsruhe (Germany) and today most of the work is carried out in Goteborg (Sweden). I think one of the reasons for this spread is the licensing of the tool.

  • Zach Aikman

    I just wanted to clarify. The school never stopped us from trying to make another game using the same gameplay mechanics. That’s impossible to copyright, thankfully. It was a matter of taking IP from Synaesthete with us when we moved on to work on a spiritual successor. The game’s definitely getting remade, except with an entirely new graphical look and soundtrack.

    It’s still an important issue for universities, students and teachers to be discussing, though. Thanks for spreading the word :)


Leave a Reply


Recent Posts

  • Events General Mobile Apps Container Run a continuation of politically motivated apps

    Container Run a continuation of politically motivated apps

    First we had Angry Imran which brought smiles and some short lived fun for us during the election campaign. Then came Gullu Butt following the incident of Model Town Lahore, which stayed on top of charts (Pakistan play store) for quite some while. Also Gullu Butt made an update with having the famous “Aam Khaiyga” quote form Aamir Liaqat in which a character resembling Aamir Liaqt throws mangoes and the Gullu Butt character tries to catch them. Gullu butt currently has more than 100,000 Installs

    And now during this extremely politically tense situation which had the whole nation on its toes on 14th August we have another app continuing the …

    Read more →
  • Announcements Featured Startup General Meritaleem.com aims to help student make better decision regarding their future.

    Meritaleem.com aims to help student make better decision regarding their future.

    MeriTaleem.com aims to solve an age old problem for our students, where to go next?

    If you have just completed your primary school which college to pick, if you have completed your college which university to pick. There has always been lack of information or rather consolidated information regarding these questions. The best source till now has always been relatives and friends (mostly of your parents). So some uncle did CA and made a good living you should talk to him and decide, or daughter of my sister completed her medical and is practicing follow that career.

    The fact that online presence of our existing universities are limited and not …

    Read more →
  • General Mobile Apps Eccentria Technologies launches an app which shoots to the top of the charts

    Eccentria Technologies launches an app which shoots to the top of the charts

    Whoa!! this was quick so Eccentia technologies launched an app a few days ago called “Ajj Kia Pakaen” or what to cook today and today it has reached the top of charts for Pakistani Stores on iTunes and google play store.

    “Ajj Kia Pakaen” is the most common question asked at every house hold in the morning. The ladies of the family have a hard time deciding what to cook for the day. The app has a fun interface and is simple to use, you fire it up, and it gives you an option of what to cook for the day, if you like the option you can check the …

    Read more →
  • Coffee Session General Marketing/Adv Rise of facebook marketing in Pakistan

    Rise of facebook marketing in Pakistan


    Until a few years back we used to have closed groups and forums, which gathered the like minded people and anyone targeting the online audience would tap into that forum and market his/her services. So PakGamers , PakPassion initially even PakWheels used to be driven by members talking about what they loved, people used to create marketing and sales opportunities from within those discussions (so you could get a good router cheap or a gaming PC etc).
    The advent of facebook changed all that, most of the forum goers moved to the new social media. It also made a very attractive market place for some one who does not …

    Read more →
  • General Getting back

    Getting back

    I  have been out of blogging for a long long long time, a lot of things happening on personal front (including a little startup I have ben doing my self). However during my absence I met a lot of people who had followed GreenWhite at its peak, read the articles regularly.

    I had hope there would be some one else who would come ahead and cover everything going on and around us in the local tech world. There are some guys doing a great job, but for some reason I still could not find one source where I can go and read about everything, so my routine usually is to …

    Read more →
  • General Mobile Apps Software & I.T. GeniTeam launches official app for Pakistan Idol

    GeniTeam launches official app for Pakistan Idol

    GeniITeam has successfully launched an official app for PakistanIdol. This is one of the first collaboration between a reality game show and a local app development company. I am sure a lot more would follow. Previously we have seen seenreport becoming the basis of mostly all channels citizen reporting system (Like Geo Dost). This is a healthy sign and with the advent of 3G round the corner it should become a business generator for our local firms.

    App allows you to follow the contestants that you like, promote them, comment on live feedback on an episode. It offers official content from the show since it is developed with partnership with …

    Read more →
  • General 10Pearls and National Geographic Release A Geography Challenge App

    10Pearls and National Geographic Release A Geography Challenge App

    10Pearls, one of the leading Pakistani IT companies, has recently added another feather to its cap. This time, in partnership with National Geographic, 10Pearls has released the new and improved GeoBee Challenge App – an interactive app to challenge and grow the geographic knowledge of the users.

    Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The competition is designed to encourage geography in the classroom, ignite student interest in the world around them, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test …

    Read more →
  • General 10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    It’s heartening to see that Pakistani IT companies have now started to diversify themselves into non traditional areas, and are competing with global players in areas such as gaming. We have received information that 10Pearls, one of the leading  mobile and enterprise web development services companies in Pakistan, has spun-off a separate entity focused solely on developing and publishing casual mobile games.  The new entity, Game Plan8, will focus on creating 2D and 3D games for the iOS, Google Android, Kindle, Facebook and other platforms. Details can be seen on the company’s official press release at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11428177.htm


    Read more →
  • General Telecom CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    If only were there two things when it comes to the law, firstly the fear of breaking it and by passing the legal authority, and secondly, implementation of the law given full dedication, there would have been less competency and dishonesty in business and society. However, keeping good faith, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has put forward “Deceptive Marketing Guidelines” which will maintain the Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010. In order to enforce this part of the law and stop anti-competitive conduct on part of the telecom companies in advertising, the guidelines have been shared with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other concerned telecommunication sector members, in …

    Read more →