Copyright Considerations

Background and Overview

The subject of this document is a proposed Virtual Reality (VR) lesson for electric utility Damage Assessors, who survey the electric distribution system in the aftermath of major damage events (generally storms) and report to the restoration managers, enabling the dispatch of repair crews and equipment in the most efficient and rapid manner possible. The training will use as far as possible already-existing computers and other hardware, and to the greatest extent possible be available just-in-time (JIT) so that training can take place shortly before the damage event (e. g. after the issuing of a hurricane warning) in order to maximize impact and retention.

Since this project is at an early stage, it is not clear how (or whether) it will be completed. For the purpose of this document it will be assumed that the author’s employer, National Grid (About National Grid, n. d.) will fund its completion by making that task part of the author’s duties in his role as instructional designer.


Because the author is a permanent employee of National Grid and would be creating the lesson in the course of his professional duties, it would be considered a “work made for hire.” The US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) defines works made for hire as “a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.” (Circular 09, 2012; 17 U.S.C. § 101, 2017)

There are two clear complications to this simple legal picture. First, some of the contents of the course are previously copyrighted by another entity, notably the 3D models (“meshes”) of various pieces of utility equipment. Obviously neither National Grid nor the author can claim copyright of those components. Because of the nature of the virtual environment used, copyright ownership is clearly displayed whenever a student encounters the models (the viewer will display ownership if the student right-clicks on the object and makes the correct selection), and the license the objects were purchased under does not restrict their use in an educational simulation, so the only restriction on the author or his employer is to include a disclaimer with all use of the course indicating that we do not own included content copyrighted by others.

The second complication: the prototype of the course will have been created before the employer has the opportunity to direct the creation of the final version, and will therefore automatically be copyrighted by the current author. It is anticipated that the employer would request that all applicable copyrights be transferred to National Grid in this situation, and the author would do so.


17 U.S.C. § 101 – U.S. Code – Unannotated Title 17. (2017) Retrieved from:

About National Grid. (2017). Retrieved from

Circular 09. (2012). Retrieved from