School system seeks copyright ownership of students’ work in Maryland

It's as if they lifted the plot right out of a Cory Doctorow novel. In Maryland, the Prince George’s County Board of Education is considering a proposal that would allow the school system to copyright ownership of all work created by students and teachers. The sweeping intellectual property grab could mean that anything from a drawing to an app to a lesson plan would become the property of the school system, not the creator.

From Ovetta Wiggins' piece in the Washington Post:

The proposal is part of a broader policy the board is reviewing that would provide guidelines for the “use and creation” of materials developed by employees and students. The boards’s staff recommended the policy largely to address the increased use of technology in the classroom.

Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs (District 5) said she and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston (District 6) attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to make it clear who owns teacher-developed curricula created while using apps on iPads that are school property, Jacobs said.

It’s not unusual for a company to hold the rights to an employee’s work, copyright policy experts said. But the Prince George’s policy goes a step further by saying that work created for the school by employees during their own time and using their own materials is the school system’s property.

Read the rest.

It seems that the idea here is to protect possible revenue that could come from "the growing secondary online market for teacher lesson plans," or from software or other internet-based applications and services that might be developed within the classroom, but have greater revenue potential in secondary sales outside the classroom.

(Image: Shutterstock)


  1. I photograph and document every pre-coprolite in my toilet, to prevent copyright infringement of my creative output.

    1. “Are you KIDDING me? That turd looks EXACTLY like the one I dropped last week. I´ll see you in court!”

  2. “Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions”

    “Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006 — $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.”

    “Kelly Gionti, a teacher at the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice in Manhattan, has sold $2,544 worth of unit plans for “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby,” among others, helping finance trips to Rome and Ireland, as well as class supplies.”

    1. If this is the market that the school system is trying to horn in on, it becomes especially troubling, as they’re just making the money flow one way – teachers pay the schools for lesson plans and other tools for teaching.  Which is just perverse.  They should start selling school supplies, too, so that teachers can buy those from their employers as well – think how much money the schools could make off the teachers!

      1. Teachers generally have to provide their own supplies these days. We’ve reverted to Colonial times in some aspects of our education system. One teacher that I know has to buy her own Scantrons because the school doesn’t provide enough for the number of students that they give her.

        1. Having friends and family who teach K-12, I knew it was bad, but having the teacher pay for Scantrons?  I can’t think of another word for it but “obscene.”  The more I read about the state of the education system in the US, the more I can’t help but think of it as a system in serious decline.
          The way things are going, soon it will make sense for the teachers to join forces with exotic dancers, as the terms of their employment will be similar – they’ll both be paying to rent their work space, while living entirely off tips.

      2. This is already happening. You get two reams of copier paper after that buy your own. I keep tonner stashed in my desk (purchased myself) since no one refills the machine. I bought it at the campus book store.

        1. Presumably the only difference right now is that the campus bookstore is run by a third party, and not directly by the school. Though I certainly paid to make copies for students on university-owned copiers while teaching courses there, so it differs only in scale.

    2. So … an amount of money which would not be enough to hire a teacher’s aide. Lovely, I’m sure it will be worth it.

    3. Fuck, that sucks that a teacher might actually be paid decently for their work. Market forces are the enemy of human progress.

      1. “Market forces are the enemy of human progress.”

        Absolutely not! Market forces actually drive achievement since as prices go up for an item someone else finds a way to do it cheaper or better thereby increasing competition. Think Wal-Mart, Smart phones, Tablets, … anything.

  3. Intellectual Property once again making people much less intellectual.
    This is replacing that trend where people who hurt themselves doing stupid shit sued property owners to get rich for their own stupidity…

    1. I wish some one had an intellectual property claim on that idea so that no one could use it anymore… ever.

        1. Having seen some of the stuff that gets patented you have a very good chance of getting the patent.

  4. In the Uk , at least at the Uni I went to, it is common that work created ‘with joint input of the staff’ is at least partially owned by the institution or they at least reserve the full right to exploit it for promotional purposes etc.

    1. That exists. There are certain benefits that can’t transfer with seniority across states and sometimes outside districts. So it’s a significant financial hit for an experienced teacher to move.

      1. Absolutely, the being chained to one employer was one of the  things I hated most about being in a union  (literally, no, but going from $12 to $9/h and 8h a day to 6, and last choice of routes, is no fun).

    1. Unfortunately, yes. As ridiculous as it sounds they can. This fact alone is pretty clear evidence that hardly anyone has actually read our constitution, including the people who are tasked with serving it.

        1. It can. The U.S. government retains copyright over its work outside the United States! Which is complicated when you publish a book or ebook here and it uses U.S. government material and then it’s sold elsewhere. However, there’s essentially zero enforcement.

          And some arms of U.S. government hire contractors or license material and it remains under copyright as well.

          U.S. government material isn’t put into the public domain as such; it’s just available license-free in America.

          1.  I suspect that there’s no enforcement because successful suits are unlikely.  There is no part of 17usc that actually talks about retaining foreign copyright in US Government works.  ISTR that the only real justification is a couple of sentences in the conference report.

  5. Lesson plans make sense as they are work for hire. It is clearly part of a teaching job to create lesson plans and work on curriculum. School districts often turn a blind eye to a lot of work for hire that ends up sold online in the secondary market you reference. However, that doesn’t change the nature of the work as being part of the role for which a teacher is compensated. Student work, on the other hand, is much more problematic.

    1. This isn’t work being done for a company with legitimate worries about competitors, it’s a public school. 

       Good stuff should be replicated, “best practices” and all that.  If there’s a particularly engaging and effective lesson plan out there that some teacher has put together, what does this school lose from having that plan repeated in another school?

      1. Monique’s point wasn’t that it was necessarily a particularly good idea, just that the doctrine of ‘work for hire’ in copyright assignment is well established and reasonably fleshed out(now, if it wasn’t in the contract that teachers’ works were ‘works for hire’ the union will do their best to rip the district a new asshole; but it’s a common and well understood contractual clause for employer/employee stuff).

        Students, by contrast, aren’t employees, cannot(for the most part) assent to contracts, and education is compulsory. No way in hell is something you get out of a minor, through application of state power, a ‘contract’ in any useful sense of the term. Going after the teachers would be, in my view, a very stupid HR move; but it’d be a totally stock bit of employment contract boilerplate. Going after the students, though, is a whole different can of worms. (Strategically speaking, the strongest avenue would probably be a ‘student notes are derivative works of the copyrighted curriculum material, uses we don’t like constitute unauthorized derivative works’ strategy: that wouldn’t claim ownership; but it would largely salt the earth for any commercial-scale reproduction of good student notes/work.)

      2. Agreed.

        Besides, I would argue that it’s not the school that’s paying the teachers, it’s the taxpayers of Prince George’s county and the rest of the taxpaying American public through the Department of Education.

    2.  Yep. It’s certainly done under the direction and supervision of the school, but since they’re not paying the students, it’s much more difficult to make and kind of “for hire” argument.  And since attendance is mandatory, any kind of contract with the students would seem to be a contract of adhesion.  Rather than claiming copyright, notice of what the school considers the “fair use” of student work that they feel that they are entitled to and intend on exercising probably WOULD be a good idea. 

    3. I don’t think you can take it for granted that lesson plans and other materials developed by teachers are work for hire in the absence of that being specified in the employment contract. Teachers, good ones anyways, do a great deal of work outside of their specified hours of employment. My wife is a mathematics teacher (in the district next door to Prince George’s County) who has developed a lot of course material. She has no interest in selling it but got tired of people just ripping it off, so I suggested she publish it under a Creative Commons license, which she has done. But by doing so, she has asserted that she is the copyright holder.

      In the end, I think this is an employment law question as much an an intellectual property issue. It looks to me like the PG school board is attempting a unilateral change in the terms and conditions of employment and I expect it will be challenged by the Maryland Education Association.

      In the case of students, with the usual caution that IANAL, I don’t see what conceivable claim the schools have to student work. The students (or their parents, since the kids aren’t legally competent) would have to assign copyright and for that to be enforceable, the assignment could not be coerced.

      1. Precisely because ‘work for hire’ is so commonly established(this isn’t some ‘Hey, we signed the contract for that LP back in 1975, man, how were we supposed to know what ‘streaming royalties’ to specify?’ situation, ‘work for hire’ has been a thing far longer than any teacher’s contract duration I’ve ever heard of), the MEA will very likely stomp them if it wasn’t in the contract when agreed on. Doesn’t stop it from coming up next year, with more pressure; but that sort of unilateral change defeats the whole point of ‘contract’.

        1.  To some extant you are, I think,  mixing “specially contracted and commisioned,” WFH with employee/employer WFH.  Record albums are for the most part the first category, where clear language in the contract has to spell out that the work is intended to be a WFH, and that work has to be in one of several special classes (a translation, a contribution to a collective work, etc…)  When there is an actual employee/employer relationship, ANY work created in the course of that employment IS born a WFH, the employer is the author for copyright purposes.  The question is whether lesson plans are made “in the course of their employment” when they are completed off worksite, outside of work hours.

  6. Copyright Ownership is absolutely needed in this Age, because there are lot of  Duplicators in these days.
    I definitely agree with this movement.

    1. Hope you didn’t cut and paste this comment anywhere, since Boing Boing now owns it and could sue your ass for copyright infringement.

          1. My feelings are engaged in the comments.  I think we need more offending of love.

            I just wish they would try harder.  It can’t be that hard to get a sock puppet with a posting history…

          2. I can’t wait until the bots reach sentience and start having the conversations they want to have.

          3. – “My mother-in-law made $7,893 in three weeks working at home.”
            – “Fuck you! My second cousin made $9,822 in two weeks without leaving the house.”

          4. How about cats? Although Lord knows I try to get my cat to comment here all the time, but she either flat-out refuses or is completely incoherent.

          5. If something strikes me as being off, I’m not above clicking on the avatar to see if they have a history of note.
            Single post history, prominent website placement not worth the effort.

            Its a useful thing to do when your dealing with a “hot” topic where someone is just trying to bait you into flames.  Makes spotting people you can have a civil debate with easier.

          6. Clicking on the avatar just opens up the Disqus profile. Clicking on the name takes you to hell. There’s nothing defective about her comments as of the time that I rolled out of bed.

          7. Meh. 
            Insert my standard disclaimer about dyslexia here.  Homophones tend to trip me up, but on the upside I’ve been avoiding typing words backwards.

        1. Yeah, I figured that it was, I really wouldn’t expect anything else from Boing Boing.

          It’s more putting it in “here and now” terms to pound issues into a maximalist’s head.

          ETA: You use Disqus, does that throw any wrinkles in?

      1. Rob, that’s rude.
        No I’m not. I am not copy paste my comment anywhere else because I am not a Bot.
        If commenting is not allowed for peoples like me than I will not post any comment here anymore.
        I am sorry if my previous comment offend your feelings.

  7. Just, no.  Not only would they need to ammend every teacher’s contract to include this clause, (which would NEVER get past the teacher’s union), kids don’t have a choice about which public school, (or public school district), they go to, so this is pretty much slavery, (unpaid work for hire that is state enforced).  Come to think of it, that would never pass child labour laws, (or the US is worse then I thought it was).

    1. “Unpaid work for hire” that students do is called “homework” and the compensation for doing homework is called “an education.” This isn’t a child labor issue.

      1. Alright then, it’s copyfraud

        Current copyright law says the creator gets the copyright automatically if it’s not a work for hire situation. And since minors can’t by themselves participate in legal contracts, the only way to assign their copyright to the school is by way of their parents. If the school just claims copyright on student works bypassing parental participation in assignment, then it’s simply copyfraud.

        1. Dunno about all that, save for that minors can indeed enter into contracts without parental consent: they can even cancel those contracts at will, without reason. 

          I certainly would want the child to retain the IP rights to his or her stories, pictures, whatever, but my only point above is that looking it through the lens of child labor is misleading as students =/= child laborers.

          1. I get your point.
            I also just did a little remedial reading, and indeed minors can enter into contracts, but the contracts themselves are unenforcable.  It strikes me as odd that anyone would try to contract with a minor alone.  If the parents/guardians are also party to the contracts, they do become enforcable at least.

          2. They’re enforceable, as far as my own little reading into the subject shows. I do agree it’s an odd phenomenon, but it seems to happen.

          3.  If they are participating in work for hire, then they are laborers. The only way for the schools to enforce this is to make it a work for hire situation. Either they don’t, and it’s copyfraud, or they do, and it’s against child labor laws. Homework isn’t work for hire – the school requires it, but doesn’t own it.

      2. Once economic worth is ascribed to the product of labour, then yes, it is. I know kids aren’t “employed” directly to carry out such tasks, but neither are prison inmates who are breaking rocks and sewing sacks.

        You wouldn’t argue that voluntary work is non-paid because it is useless to the economy.

      3. It’s not a child labor issue as long as the state isn’t gaining goods from it.  But once the state is gaining copyright, they’ve put themselves in the position of forcing kids to do work, under threat of academic penalty, that produces goods for the state – turning writing assignments into coerced labor – probably not the outcome they were after…

        By analogy (I know, limitations of physical/intellectual property comparisons, etc.) – imagine a highschool with a mandatory woodshop program where the students have to build furniture to get a passing grade. If the kids are allowed the option of taking home the stuff they build for free, or maybe for a nominal fee to cover materials cost, that’s great. But if the school also runs a for-profit furniture shop, and anything the students make that turns out well gets automatically put in the shop with no compensation to the student other than a good grade, that gets problematic.

        1. I’m not sure that there isn’t some interest on the state’s part as co-creator of those hypothetical products of so-called child labor. Is a short story that a kindergartener writes at the prompting of his or her teacher, with a large amount of the teacher’s input, guidance, and correction, undertaken as part of the child’s mandatory public schooling, and largely aided by public funds (the materials for said story, the utilities consumed, the publicly-funded classroom, publicly-paid teacher) solely that child’s intellectual property? Sounds cool, I guess, but it also sounds problematic to me . . . less problematic than that the same product is the sole property of the school, but still. I would hope some equitable model of sharing could be found.

          1. I think you just described an editor. As far as I know, they don’t get copyright over an author’s works even in the adult world.

      4. That argument is only valid as long as the school isn’t profiting off of the work of the students. As soon as they start making money off of them, all bets are off.

        But this is irrelevant since copyright belongs the author unless specified elsewhere in a contract that the students are not legally able to agree to and to which their parents would likely not agree and if they were to do so simply out of the fact that they don’t want to have to move to another school district, it would be an unconscionable contract clause.

        Some graduate students publish their theses in expanded forms as books. Some film students take their student projects and make them into larger motion pictures for commercial release. There’s no precedent for a school district to unilaterally change copyright law as it pertains to their particular students.

        1. Dunno, I contracted to write my PhD thesis: six-year-olds don’t do their homework with the same willingness, the same ability to do or not do the assignment, and not nearly the independence regarding the scope of the work, its details, subject, etc. Is a six-year-old’s painting done for class, with the subject supplied by a (publicly paid) teacher, with guidance supplied by the same, with materials supplied by taxpayers, completed at a publicly-funded school “theirs” in the way that independent work is the property of the author’s? . . . are you claiming that that work is the child’s IP to the same degree that my PhD thesis is, or that a short story that I’d write would be . . . or, more interesting, that a short story written by that same hypothetical six-year-old, outside and independent of school, would be? To me that argument seems problematical, as much as I’d like it to be true. There would seem to be a kind of “You didn’t build that,” public-interest argument possible in the face of such  a broad assertion.

          1. Copyright law doesn’t make exceptions for the age of the author and Section 101 never refers to works made by students enrolled at an institution as qualifying as “works for hire” and specifically states that a work for hire is “a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment or…if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.”

            The compensation of knowledge/experience that students receive from education for turning in work is not  an employment compensation. Since a certain amount of education is mandatory, it could be indentured servitude to consider minor students as employees and their creations as works for hire.

          2. Indeed, students derive zero compensation (in the traditional sense) from their studies. That was the point of my ironically calling their education compensation in the first place: students =/= laborers. Glad you agree! 

            I’ve not once used “work for hire,” so I’m not really getting why that particular argument is being used . . . not my phrase, not my argument.

            Again, I think there are enough differences between compulsory-enrolled students and the at-will, higher-education students that it’s not an open-and-shut case. Copyright law does indeed make no distinctions due to age, but it does in other ways: public employees, for example. I’m more than happy with kids owning their work, but I think it’s a more than reasonable counterargument that the state that’s proposing those works, that’s facilitating them, that’s subsidizing their materials and environment (utilities, locations, etc.) has a compelling argument as being in someway the co-creators of said work.

          3. You’re contradicting your own argument in your last paragraph. You cite the example of public employees as exceptions to copyright law and then go on to say that a public institution has an interest in the works that it facilitates, but those works are created by non-employee students, so your cited example doesn’t apply.

            If an author uses a public library computer to write his book, does the library or the public get copyright of the work? Of course not.

            You can give anyone an education or a piece of paper and pen, but the one factor that is a sine qua non for the creation of a work is the creator’s own creativity and effort.

            You quoted Sean’s use of the term “unpaid work for hire” in reference to homework. But it is in essence what you’re referring to regardless of how you phrase it. Either the copyright belongs to the author or else if it doesn’t, it belongs to another entity that has contracted to receive the copyrights on works by the author. Non-authors obtain copyrights on works either through work-for-hire contracts or by purchasing the copyrights.

            You’d have to create a currently non-existent third category of copyrighted work to argue that the public institution has any argument towards even partial ownership of works it cannot be said to be the author of or for which it does not have a contract that grants it the copyrights.

          4. Yeah, you keep twisting my argument around, methinks. It’s cool that you don’t want to entertain situations in which the student might not reasonably be considered the sole copyright holder: perhaps it offends your sensibilities, perhaps I’m not presenting the examples with the flourish of a trained semantician. But since we’re talking generalities and not pertinent laws or cases to homework considered as IP, then, well, right then. Homework =/= “work for hire” (not my phrase), but whatever . . . the issues would make a fun article in the hands of a knowledgable expert, something that you and I are not.

          5. US law is very clear about this.  The author or creator owns the copyright except in specifically enumerated cases.  The law is not ambiguous.

    2. Children are quasi-chattel property under the law. But they’re chattels of their parents, so this would still be unsupportable.

  8. None of this seems too revolutionary or worrisome to me. The idea that a teacher’s IP created in the line of her paid duties are owned by her employer shouldn’t surprise anyone. And there’s no way the district will get legal ownership of a student’s IP without his parents signing a contract with the district. No matter how crazy the district is, they can’t rewrite federal copyright law.

    1. Teachers (public school teachers at least) are paid with public funds. So the idea that their work could automatically go into the public domain is not entirely crazy (though it’s still problematic if those teachers do anything outside of their schools, which some do). The idea that their work could become the property of a government institution and actually be walled off from public use is pretty disgraceful though. Taking student’s IP is just… I don’t know how they think they can do that.

      Private schools are a different matter. There are totally legal ways they could draw up a contract that would make this work, though any private school that tried to institute such a clause would surely lose a lot of students and teachers.

      This sort of thing just makes home schooling look more appealing, which is the most terrifying thing of all for me. When I start taking the same stance as isolationists who don’t want their kids to be exposed to outside ideas, I start to worry.

      1. (though it’s still problematic if those teachers do anything outside of their schools, which is the only way the school system survives)

        FTFY.  At least where I live, all extracurricular programs – sports, drama, band, science fairs –  which are the things that give schools pretty much all their prestige, are completely unpaid. 

        In the event of a labor dispute, the government tends to immediately (and IMO illegally) legislate teachers back to work.  A typical retaliatory measure is for teachers’ unions to call on members to withhold their free labour from extracurricular programs.

      2.  Hey! Homeschooling is awesome. You just have to like having your kids around all the time, and love learning together.
        On topic: I drew a *lot* in high school, and I’d be mighty pissed if I didn’t own the rights to my work…

      3. Yeah, I was thinking of the public domain angle, too. I know that IP created by federal government employees is supposed to be in the public domain, but the vast majority of most teachers’ salaries are from state and local governments. And I know (or at least have read) that the same thing doesn’t apply of state-funded IP.

    2. It depends which Judge you end up in front of now.  I know my favorite DC Judge sat on the bench and bemoaned how ISPs and citizens needed to go well above and beyond the legal requirements to protect copyrights and she was making decisions based on what she wanted the law to be not what it was.

      Taking the teachers IP without giving them any benefits just seems unfair.  Given that many teachers aren’t paid what they should be, and many dig into their own pocket to get supplies to keep the classroom running.  And as they want to take everything a teacher creates, even if its on their own time this is just about a power grab praying they can get more cash on the new IP gravy train.

    3. they can’t rewrite federal copyright law.

      Currently, a school district wouldn’t have the spondulix to buy a vote like that. Once a significant percent of American school districts have been sold to Acme Education Inc., that won’t be a problem anymore.

  9. I can’t see any reason at all why it’s necessary (if the state doesn’t produce free public domain works then what are you paying taxes for?) but there is a compromise inbetween which makes sense if it does insist… give the schools unlimited free access to the works. much of what the teachers do outside the “paid hours” (in quotes so noone will talk about how salaries don’t have specific hours) is beyond the call of duty and the state has no right to appropriate them, but such work is being done for the school and this would ensure that not one but all schools are allowed to benefit. what the teachers do outside the public school system is their own business.

  10. I disagree that normal curriculum is work for hire.  Curriculum I write while being paid as part of the curriculum review process clearly belongs to the district, but in my area (art) there is pretty much no decent curriculum available to purchase, no text books etc. the district could shell out for.  Everything I teach I developed on my own time, over and above my salaried work, and in a very different way than math or social studies teachers are expected to work.  And any way, it’s mostly in my head, rather than in some Madeleine Hunter approved document format, so good luck keeping it when I leave.  If they want me to write it down in some format, then they can pay me extra, per the contractually negotiated rate, and then it can belong to them.

    In Visual Art works completed according to a teacher’s assignment are generally recognized as being the property of the teacher.  I can’t imagine ever acting on that, other than to photograph works to include in my portfolio or perhaps as examples to post with curriculum should I ever sell curriculum.  One would always include some anonymous indicator of the student, first name last initial for example.  I think that is fair and appropriate.  

    1. “In Visual Art works completed according to a teacher’s assignment are generally recognized as being the property of the teacher.”

      Generally recognized by whom? That may be an assumption but I’d think it is an incorrect one given that works are automatically copyright by their creator and copyright transfer under US law must be explicit and *written*. AFIK there is no implied or oral transfer of copyright recognized by law in the US and students are not employees of the instructor (thus limited “work for hire” statues don’t apply) so I don’t see how student work could belong to the instructor.

    2. “In Visual Art works completed according to a teacher’s assignment are generally recognized as being the property of the teacher.”
      Can you cite that? I’m an art educator just wrapping up a master’s degree in art ed, and I’ve never encountered anything in the policy or literature stating that (and it seems to contradict American copyright law, which would give the creator of the work ownership).

      I’m honestly not trying to be contradictory – what you said might very well be true, and if it is, it would be useful in my line of work to know that, and where it comes from. But I can’t just accept such an assertion on faith.

    3. “In Visual Art works completed according to a teacher’s assignment are generally recognized as being the property of the teacher.  I can’t imagine ever acting on that, other than to photograph works to include in my portfolio or perhaps as examples to post with curriculum should I ever sell curriculum.  One would always include some anonymous indicator of the student, first name last initial for example.  I think that is fair and appropriate.”

      My art teachers never asserted that they owned our works. We were always able to take ours home. If my teachers wanted to use something as an example or keep it, they asked. We always had the chance to say yes or no. I can’t foresee any way in which they would be able to use a copy  of that work in curriculum they sold without getting a student to sign a contract.

      When I taught English, we were expressly told at both colleges that students owned the copyright to their writings. It wasn’t stated as a school policy but rather the way federal copyright law stood on the issue.

  11. Is it just me or does it seem like IP, Copyright, Patents are becoming the new market bubble thing.  Everyone assumes there actually is all of this money changing hands and is trying to grab their share of the kajillions of dollars that don’t actually exist.  And the toxic thing its doing to society is killing innovation and really good new ideas… we are losing out because new things have to cost more because 300 patents say that 10 companies should get $5 a unit each, and some ideas are just killed… run out of money and then the troll buys it for a song and locks up more new ideas.

    1.  I believe it is massive case of legacy business model indigestion.  A big bite of disruptive innovation will do that.  In my exposure to maker culture (albeit vicariously) I see hints of the future.  I hope I am right.

      Dear patent trolls: you can’t stop the signal…

    2.  It’s people realizing that all the money is in rent-seeking nowadays. You can’t become rich by making valuable things anymore, you become rich by taking a cut of the value created by others. Hence trying to get a cut from the creativity of students in school, a cut from all apps in the app store, a cut of all the money that’s invested in Wall Street, a cut from all inventors trying to do something vaguely related to a BS patent you own, etc. It’s a massive drag on the economy and it’s becoming more and more common.

  12. As a teacher, I have TRIED to find out the details about apps created in my class, no one had any answers.  What needs to happen is that best practices need to be developed, then schools will pick up good ideas instead of messing it up on their own.

  13. They can change their policies and make all the ‘clarifications’ they want, if they don’t put it into the teacher’s contracts, they’ll have a rather hard time enforcing it.

    With students it would be far more difficult as there’s just no legal basis for it that I’m aware of. (No contracts for example)

  14. There’s two shades here — the Teacher’s work, and the Student’s work. Asserting IP rights over the Teacher’s work — I can see the argument there. I don’t agree.

    Asserting IP rights over the Student’s work — that’s just clearly a way to shut a student down. Either for “cheating” reasons (kid uploads his essay to an essay farm — and this is what they’d claim as intent) or what I think it would mostly be used for — squashing unpopular speech. Kid writes an article about a teacher, it’s work created in a school context, IP belongs to the district, so it just takes a DMCA complaint to silence it. Makes it easier to discipline the student too without the pesky ACLU getting involved.

  15. Just to reiterate steve_wildstrom’s points upthread: My understanding of work made for hire is that it needs to be explicitly contracted for in those terms. Otherwise it belongs to the creator. That’s the way it has been in my freelance writing work, and I suspect that the same principle applies in other fields–if your employment contract (or perhaps regional labor law) doesn’t specify that the employer owns the rights to one’s intellectual output, produced in the normal course of one’s duties, it belongs to the individual. I would think that no school board–at least, not in a unionized district–gets to change contractual terms unilaterally. As for declaring that student work belongs to the district–that’s just strange. I recall that in the university setting, student work is considered the IP of the student, which means that, for example, student papers can’t be used as examples in textbooks without permission. I Googled around to find a policy example and found this one, which seems pretty reasonable, representative, and clearly articulated:

    1.  That’s the way it is for WMFH that are done by contractors.  Language making the work a WMFH HAS to be in the contract, AND the contract has to have been agreed to BEFORE the work was created. But when there is an employee/employer relationship there NO need for a specific agreement. Works created within the course of their employment is automatically a WMFH, and the employer rather than the creator is the author under copyright law.

  16. So now if a student is suspected of plagiarising another student’s work, the district can sue the suspect for statutory damages for copyright infringment? That’ll surely certainly be a greater deterrent than a zero on the assignment and detention.

  17. When I was teaching at a large research university, we were told by the department to submit student work to a private database to check if it was plagiarized.  Submitted work then becomes part of their searchable database.  

    I made an announcement to that effect on the first day of class.  A student asked if he could opt-out, since he owned the copyright to his work and did not want it given away to a private company to keep in their database.  I didn’t have an answer and referred him to my department chair; that was the last I heard of it, but his work did get submitted.

  18. Sorry but we have to confiscate your refrigerator.  Those A’s on those quizzes and fingerpaint works belong to us.

  19. The issue is that, if this were only work that they were specifically instructed to do an payed for, sure, this makes sense.  If it’s work they did on their own time, this is only reasonable if the district pays them overtime for all the extra hours they work making this stuff.  (I used to be a teacher, and believe me, any teacher who’s any good works a lot more hours than they get payed for.) This seems to go even beyond that, though, to claiming rights over, say, individual artistic endeavors with no relation to work or school for both teachers and students, which is why I think any board member who supported this is clearly either incompetent or insane and should be removed.

  20. If they produce work product on the Company paid time, or using Company paid resources. I think the Company has a right to their product, but they have to start from a set point in time, and sign an agreement to the fact. It is not retroactively enforceable. I do the same with the Company I work for. I just make sure I never work on the Company dime, when I am incubating a new idea, or process, or workflow, or invention, or whatever the Product I have in mind. I make sure to establish a clear divide, of what was done, where and when. I never use the Companies resources. Not even to do research or even light reading on an idea I’ve had, or want to pursue.

    As for taking Children’s Product from them… they are not employees. They are not even of age to give away or assign their Product rights to the school system. I am sure. The School is providing the Service to the Student. The Student is the Consumer of the Product, not the Originator. How can they justify taking the copyright away from the Consumer? I think they are just trying to steamroll over a stupid populace, that cannot afford to legally fight back for their rights.

    This Country is just getting ridiculous and fucking sad!

    1. Hasn’t stopped many online businesses from trying to sneak it into their User agreements. Use our service, and All Your Work Are Belong To Us. Probably the same tactic at work here.

  21. this is already the case for the HKU (art school Utrecht) in the Netherlands, and one of the reasons why I quit 10 years ago.
    (I don’t know if there’s a case where they actually used this ‘right’, btw. )

    1. That is quite wrong.  Is your school private?  I can’t imagine a public school being able to enforce this.
      Example: a child creates a drawing, that is subsequently used as a cover/illustration for a for-profit work created by someone at the school.  What are the child’s rights regarding use of that work, or do they and their family basically get told to ‘suck it’?

  22. So if a kid copies someone else’s homework, that kid would be violating the copyright of the schools “intellectual” property.
    Considering the litigation happy authorities in the US, we all know where this is going to end:
    Little 13 year old Jimmy is gonna get his door kicked in, by a jackbooted SWAT team, and get dragged to juvie. For copying homework.

  23. I live in the next county over from PG and went to school myself for high school and elementary school in PG county and this terrifies me. PG county is the worst school system in the state and PG county is always in trouble for having corrupt politicians. My son is 4, if they passed this in our county, I would home school him.

  24. I do not live in that district, nor that state. But if this passes who’s to say that this won’t pass in other areas of the country? I’m a high school student and i know that this is morally wrong to take someone else’s work and own it just because they used their materials. Teachers should be allowed to sell their lesson plans that they make on their own time, because personally teachers don’t get paid big bucks to do their work, and this would help them make some extra cash on the side. They have to go to school as their job and teach rowdy kids, that’s extremely hard work. I had to with my dance group go to an elementary school and teach them some of our routines and it was extremely hard work. So what if they don’t have the time to really make a lesson plan? They can just buy one and have it for the next day, then they actually have something to go off of.
    This is sorta like the whole cyber bullying thing where if someone cyber bullies another person not on/with school property then the school is not allowed to intervene unless it hinders the learning of the victim. The same should be with the teachers lesson plans, they should be allowed to create lesson plans on their own time and there supplies then the school shouldn’t have any involvement in taking the work. The school did not help the teacher with their work. 
    Also the work of the student should not be owned by the school district because the student had to take their hard work and time to do whatever it was they had to do. It just confuses me why the school district would do this? What is their goal in owning the work of the students, this whole thing is a waste of time and effort. This is like forcing someone to do work and then taking it and saying you own that person’s hard work. That sounds almost like slavery. Even if they don’t make a profit off of that person’s work its just wrong. Its not like someone can opt out of school, they have to go, it would turn into a workplace if this passed. This is a bunch of bull, they have no right to take someone’s work and own it.
    I apologize if I don’t make sense or if this doesn’t even correlate, this whole thing is confusing, but this is just my thought from what i’m understanding.

  25. If any school system successfully monetizes “their” teacher-created lesson plans, the next step will be that teachers will be required to submit x-amount of potentially salable content per school year, and it will affect performance evaluations.

  26. I don’t understand how a publicly funded institution can possible own something? It is totally supported by public funds. If you say the kids should own the rights, fine, they created it. Maryland is just too close to DC to be living in the real world.

  27. I think legal systems should exist primarily to prevent the exploitation of minors. Were this to go ahead there would be no point in a legal system. Go America!

  28. The teachers union should be able to fix this in the contract but I have no idea about the students.  Yes lesson plans could be work for hire but teachers are paid hourly and often lesson plans are created at home, or on unpaid time.  If the school wants ownership they may be held responsible to pay overtime for all prep time done on and off campus.  As far as student work is concerned… Schools have been screwing students for years this is just par the course.  

  29. If I was a student and the school said they owned all my work?


    2011/03 Mike Monteiro | F*ck You. Pay Me. on Vimeo

  30. I think the troubling thing isn’t so much the attempt to assert ownership over employee-created IP – that’s pretty much par for the course in the commercial world. What troubles me is that students’ works would also be subject to the land-grab. As an employee, I have a choice of whether I work for a given employer or to accept a given set of employment terms. As a student, I have only slightly more choice of what school district I go to (and terms I operate under) than I had of which parents gave birth to me. Given the compulsory relationship, I gotta think that the school district attempting to assert ownership rights over students’ works would be quickly overturned in court.

  31. I was shocked when my daughter, who normally attends school in a non-USA location, went to an American school around Atlanta and had to fill out several consent forms that I would see only in a business setting.
    They wanted a video rights release form in case someone shot a video at school that contained her.  They wanted IP rights for whatever she created in school. 
    I really think that, in addition to having a “drug-free zone” around a school, there should be a “lawyer-free zone” declared as well, with federal charges to back this up.

  32. Schools and property rights:
    I gave my sister who taught elementary music a bongo drum set which she kept at her office and took with her to classrooms when teaching a unit where rhythm was appropriate.  One of the district administrators saw it in her office, grabbed it, and walked out the door with it, saying “you don’t need this.”

      1.  You don’t call the cops for something like that — at least you don’t if you want to keep your job.

        1. I’ve gotten several teachers and bosses fired in my long and illustrious career as a troublemaker. You’d be surprised how quickly bullies fold when you confront them.

  33. I think what is a play here is that school systems struggle with an ever increasing demand that money be thrown at education only to discover that the well of cash actually has a bottom; which they have been scraping for years.  If the money that was collected for education actually went to education (instead of administration) I am not sure we would be having this discussion.  

    However, I have no issue with a school system claiming ownership of employee produced work as that market force has been around for years, but to claim ownership of student works is against the 4th amendment and to a lesser degree 5th.

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