Copyright claim on Teachers, Students

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4109
Copyright claim on Teachers, Students

Should the Board of Education be able to claim a copyright to anything created by a teacher or student?

A proposal recently floated by the Prince George's County Board of Education would give them the copyright to anything created by teachers, students and employees before, during and after school hours.

A child's project, but also an online app or lesson plan a teacher creates, could be fair game.

According to a draft of the proposal obtained by FoxNews.com, "Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George's County Public School or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee's or student's time and with use of their materials."

The draft policy prompted a backlash from teachers and education activists -- causing the board to put the policy on hold pending a more thorough legal review.

As written, though, the policy could include anything published on the school's website, curriculum documents, instructional materials, platforms and software developed for use by the school system, as well as a broad-reaching "other works created for classroom use and instruction" category.

Full article: Maryland proposal to claim copyright on students' work prompts backlash, legal review | Fox News

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I'm not on board with this for students at all. What a way to stifle creativity.

Teachers...unsure...I would like those current teachers here to weigh in to feel more comfortable with my thoughts on that.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6545

I think I would need to learn more about this to be sure, but my first instinct is to say how terrible and that it is an awful policy.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Can't see any way this would ever fly legally.

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1530

I create a lot of material that I use in class. I also use stuff my fellow teachers create, and tweak it to make it more effective with my class (there is a site called teachers pay teachers that is awesome) I do not believe that the school board has legal ground to copyright stuff the teachers make, but if it is made on school computers there may be a case that at least could have some legal precedent?

Not sure any case could be made for copyrighting students work?

BTW, I only teach little ones right now (4 and 5) so the stuff I do is limited. Dh makes almost 25% of all materials he uses in his classes

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4109

"Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George's County Public School or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee's or student's time and with use of their materials."

So according to this if a teacher creates a lesson plan on their own time with their own materials and uses it at school then suddenly the school owns it? What if an art teacher creates a sculpture and brings it to school to show her students an example of what she wants them to do, then that would belong to the school too? I don't see how they would have the right to do that.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

I dont agree with this at all. In my experience almost all teachers are very happy to share what they have created with other teachers, but it shouldnt be owned by the district. Wouldnt that give the district the ability to 'sell' what a teacher has created? That just seems wrong.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3190

I know that many companies now have similar policies to material(s) created -- while on company time or working on behalf of the company, which is where a lot of sticky legal challenges tend to come into play in trying to interpret whether creations on an employee's time related to the same genre as their employer become the property of the employer or are retained by employee. Many companies tend to use the premise that if the creation is used in the course of actually doing their job *or* using company resources it belongs to the company. Outside of that, it would fall to the employee.

I don't know if this is, in any format, a part of teacher contracts. I do believe that it will stifle their willingness to be creative to better engage their students and solely use materials provided by the school district alone (or it would my own!) I know a few teachers that supplement their income, (most likely sparingly), by Teachers Pay Teachers. Many more post them on other lesson plan sites for free to share, exchange, and support one another.

My experience is that teachers tend to supplement their classroom and student needs with their own money. Outside of the one teacher that made the news by selling $700,000 of lesson plans, I think they should get a pass for those created outside of school and without using school equipment (i.e. on a personal computer for example.) Those created during school hours, on school property, or using school computers, etc. should be considered the school's.

Students copyright being swept into that -- no.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4109

"MissyJ" wrote:

I think they should get a pass for those created outside of school and without using school equipment (i.e. on a personal computer for example.) Those created during school hours, on school property, or using school computers, etc. should be considered the school's.

I agree with this.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1683

This is ridiculous! Quite a few teachers develop books that are ultimately published. Are we really saying that they need to develop a book over the summer but not use any of the components in the process until they can copyright it? Because then the intent would be publish rather than use the material in the classroom. Some teachers have made successful careers out of developing, for lack of a better word, stuff. Software, test generators, novels, etc. How about Ron Clark and The Freedom Writers Diary?

At universities, professors are often expected to publish. Does that mean the copyright isn't theirs? The what would be the point?

As for students: Oh HELL no! Students at all levels write the most wonderful poetry, stories, and musical arrangements. I can't imagine trying to take their ability to make money from their early works.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1683

"MissyJ" wrote:

I know that many companies now have similar policies to material(s) created -- while on company time or working on behalf of the company, which is where a lot of sticky legal challenges tend to come into play in trying to interpret whether creations on an employee's time related to the same genre as their employer become the property of the employer or are retained by employee. Many companies tend to use the premise that if the creation is used in the course of actually doing their job *or* using company resources it belongs to the company. Outside of that, it would fall to the employee.

The woman who invented liquid paper worked as a secretary. She was being paid to paint holiday windows where she was inspired to develop liquid paper. Her bosses told her not to use it. So....she was on company time when and idea struck her unrelated to what she was being paid to do (paint the windows). Does that mean the company should own the product even though they told her not to use it?

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Hmmm..wasn't even thinking about publishing books and things like that.

I am not for it at all. I think this will be something they will review and won't pursue.

Danifo's picture
Joined: 09/07/10
Posts: 1377

"ethanwinfield" wrote:

The woman who invented liquid paper worked as a secretary. She was being paid to paint holiday windows where she was inspired to develop liquid paper. Her bosses told her not to use it. So....she was on company time when and idea struck her unrelated to what she was being paid to do (paint the windows). Does that mean the company should own the product even though they told her not to use it?

Typically jobs where you "innovate" have clauses in the contracts where the company owns the product. If you work in designing computer monitors and you come up with a new screen idea, the company probably owns it and it would be hard for you to say you did it in your own time. If you are there and you come up with a better way to feed paper in to the photocopier, it is proably safe for you to pursue that. For a company to pursue intellectual property protection on an idea does take a lot of money so it is unlikely they would go for it if it is out of their scope.

For the teacher/student copyright issue. I don't agree with it. However, I could see them making an arguement that they have the right to use things like student drawings if those drawings were entered into a competition sponsored by the school and thingslike that since I see that rule for many photography competitions.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

This is very common in college esp with undergrads.. not sure I agree with it at all, especially students. I do understand a bit with teachers that way the school doesn't have to pay to use their copyrighted curriculum on top of their salary.

bunnyfufu's picture
Joined: 10/21/05
Posts: 203

"Rivergallery" wrote:

This is very common in college esp with undergrads.. not sure I agree with it at all, especially students. I do understand a bit with teachers that way the school doesn't have to pay to use their copyrighted curriculum on top of their salary.

I agree. It this kind of contract is common practice. The facebook movie talked about it too. I think in a real time scenario, it comes down to a real cost-benefit issue. If it is areal money maker, the original stake-holders want their take. The conflict comes down to what that is.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
Posts: 3190

"bunnyfufu" wrote:

I agree. It this kind of contract is common practice. The facebook movie talked about it too. I think in a real time scenario, it comes down to a real cost-benefit issue. If it is areal money maker, the original stake-holders want their take. The conflict comes down to what that is.

I was wondering about this from a college level student perspective. Do students lose their right to copyright or patent creations/inventions that they develop during their work as a student?

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"Danifo" wrote:

Typically jobs where you "innovate" have clauses in the contracts where the company owns the product. If you work in designing computer monitors and you come up with a new screen idea, the company probably owns it and it would be hard for you to say you did it in your own time. If you are there and you come up with a better way to feed paper in to the photocopier, it is proably safe for you to pursue that. For a company to pursue intellectual property protection on an idea does take a lot of money so it is unlikely they would go for it if it is out of their scope.

This was my first thought too. My dad works in the tech industry, and it's in his contract that basically any tech/communications type thing he were to "invent" (whether he came up with the idea at home or in the office) belongs to them. Basically, any patent for any tech product that he files while he works for them belongs to them. Which makes sense - you don't necessarily want someone who has access to all of your technology and insider knowledge to go off on his own and become your next competitor.

Having said that, I don't think the same should apply to teachers, and CERTAINLY not to students. Teachers aren't in danger of becoming "the competition" against school districts, and if you have a teacher that is coming up with a lot of great material for their classes, that directly benefits the students and school district; it's just not the same. And I certainly don't see how students could be included in that since they aren't even employees of the district. I do agree that if a student enters a painting or a short story or something into a school competition, it's okay if the school makes it part of the agreement of entering the contest that the school can use that painting or story (like, post them on their website, or things like that.) But even then, it should still belong to the student, it's just being reused with permission.

Joined: 04/12/03
Posts: 1683

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

This was my first thought too. My dad works in the tech industry, and it's in his contract that basically any tech/communications type thing he were to "invent" (whether he came up with the idea at home or in the office) belongs to them. Basically, any patent for any tech product that he files while he works for them belongs to them. Which makes sense - you don't necessarily want someone who has access to all of your technology and insider knowledge to go off on his own and become your next competitor.

Having said that, I don't think the same should apply to teachers, and CERTAINLY not to students. Teachers aren't in danger of becoming "the competition" against school districts, and if you have a teacher that is coming up with a lot of great material for their classes, that directly benefits the students and school district; it's just not the same. And I certainly don't see how students could be included in that since they aren't even employees of the district. I do agree that if a student enters a painting or a short story or something into a school competition, it's okay if the school makes it part of the agreement of entering the contest that the school can use that painting or story (like, post them on their website, or things like that.) But even then, it should still belong to the student, it's just being reused with permission.

I can totally understand in the corporate world. If someone is paid to create something, say a toy maker creates a board game while working for Hasbro. He can't get a job at Milton Bradley and bring the game with him so now it's MB making the game.

However, if my current employer owns my lessons, that would mean I couldn't use those same lesson plans when I went to a new district. Well, I guess technically, some would be owned by the university since developing lessons is a big part of the credentialing process.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6545

I think if there is going to be a claws saying that anything you create while working someone belongs to your employer, that would have to be spelled out before hand in your contract. As for students, I can see the point of a doctoral student. I have a friend to is trying to get into a doctors program. The pay for her to come visit the school and interview. They also pay a stipend for the student. I am sure in that case there is a contract that the student signs before hand.

When I read the article at first, I was thinking of some little second grader that writes a story for a writing contest at school, then goes on to turning his story into a book and gets it published. That of course belongs to the little second grader and not his school teacher.

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