Monday, February 04, 2013

Prince George's Maryland Wants to Assert A Copyright on Student and Staff work

Yeah, pretty sure this is a dumb idea and I would line up to represent someone on this stupid proposal.
A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual. 
The measure has some worried that by the system claiming ownership to the work of others, creativity could be stifled and there would be little incentive to come up with innovative ways to educate students. Some have questioned the legality of the proposal as it relates to students.
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. 
Kevin Welner, a professor and director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said the proposal appears to be revenue-driven. There is a growing secondary online market for teacher lesson plans, he said. 
“I think it’s just the district saying, ‘If there is some brilliant idea that one of our teachers comes up with, we want be in on that. Not only be in on that, but to have it all,’ ” he said.

So it seems we have the real incentive there, don't we.

Here is the policy:
“Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools 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 the use of their materials,” the policy reads. “Further, works created during school/work hours, with the use of school system materials, and within the scope of an employee’s position or student’s classroom work assignment(s) are the properties of the Board of Education.”
Now, as noted above, often when an employee produced copyright-able material in the course of their employment it is usually the property of the employer (unless it is contracted otherwise).  So as far as staff creations, that is one issue.  But the broad sweep of the policy applies to student work as well.  That is a problem.  First of all, most students don't have a choice but to be in school (it is the law for students under 16 to be in school).  Second, the policy creates a kind of exclusive use for the school even though it is totally of the student's own creation--regardless of the materials provided.  Third, most students are minors thus they are not in a position to effectively bargain on this matter and it does not appear on the surface to be rationally related to the schools' mission of providing education and securing the safety of students.

This one goes too far I believe.  If the Board of Education wants to limit it to teacher/staff creations--I am probably okay with that (with some limitations).  But extending it to student work?  Complete over reach.

What do you think?  I would love to hear from you.

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