Wednesday, February 6, 2013

School District Tries to Grab Copyright on Students' Work

Can a school grab copyright ownership of anything teachers and students do in a public school? Can the school seize a first grader's drawing of a house? How about if a teenager creates an app in a class? Or a teacher comes up with an innovative lesson plan?
Can a school demand copyright control over
a kid's drawing like this?

It seems selfish to a lot of people, but the Washington Post reports that a Maryland school district does have a proposed rule that would give it copyright over everything that comes out of the school.

“The way this policy is written, it essentially says if a student writes a paper, goes home and polishes it up and expands it, the school district can knock on the door and say, ‘We want a piece of that,’ ”  the Post quoted David Rein an adjunct law professor who focuses on intellectual property.

He said universities often have sharing agreements for copyrights on creations by students and professors. Employers often control the copyrights of employees' creation. But Rein said he's never heard of a school district going after kids' work.

The real target is probably curriculum plans and study guides created by teachers, according to the Post article, written by Oetta Wiggins. 

In any event, the school district might backpeddle on this whole thing, given the public outcry. And perhaps they didn't mean the policy to be so far reaching

The Post article quotes district board chairwoman Verjeana Jacobs:

Questioned about the policy after it was introduced, Jacobs said it was never the board’s “intention to declare ownership” of students’ work.
“Counsel needs to restructure the language,” Jacobs said. “We want the district to get the recognition . . . not take their work.”

Even if the district doesn't back down, there might be an out: Legal experts question whether a school can unilaterally impose copyright restrictions or grabs without the consent of the students.

In any event, let's hope the intellectual property stays with the people and the brains that came up with the concepts in the first place. Nobody, no corporation or school should  entirely own us, after all

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