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School Board Considers Copyright Ownership of Student and Teacher Works 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the mine-all-mine dept.
schwit1 writes "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. 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."
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School Board Considers Copyright Ownership of Student and Teacher Works

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  • Kid's artwork? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:48PM (#42780825)

    Most tech companies claim ownership of anything created by employees, whether created at work or on their own time.

    But, the students are not employees, and signed no waiver when they enrolled. Claiming ownership of the student's creations is rediculous.

    • Child Labor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:52PM (#42780875)
      If, therefore, they do claim ownership, the parents should bring a case against the school system for violation of child labor laws.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:53PM (#42780883)

      If it is a public school there is no way they can possibly claim ownership. The government requires attendance.

      • by XaXXon (202882)

        The government doesn't require attendance of public schools. It requires schooling.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      and employees aren't slaves.. their out-of-the-office creations should not be owned by employers either. This should be a default, intrinsic right, and not something employees have to battle for. What's far more amazing to me than attempts by schools to do the same to students, is how willing we are to accept this insult in adult affairs while still getting upset when it's applied to children. So it's only ok for children to own the produce of their labor now?

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I think those are usually salaried employees and the reason for it is that it makes it a lot less complicated when there's a dispute over ownership. So, that people don't have to constantly log when they had various ideas and what led to the idea.

        But, those folks are usually paid much better than teachers are and generally have funds to do their jobs in a way that teachers don't usually get funding.

        • by N0Man74 (1620447)

          I think those are usually salaried employees and the reason for it is that it makes it a lot less complicated when there's a dispute over ownership. So, that people don't have to constantly log when they had various ideas and what led to the idea.

          But, those folks are usually paid much better than teachers are and generally have funds to do their jobs in a way that teachers don't usually get funding.

          Of course, it's the best thing for everyone. Why worry about those pesky nuances of when someone got an idea or created something, just assume the corporations own everything.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          You would be wrong. It is pretty much boiler plate now for any job, no matter how little it pays or whether it is salary or hourly. It is an ugly situation caused by an extreme disparity in power. It will only get worse as automation increases.
          • Re:Kid's artwork? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Monday February 04, 2013 @12:31AM (#42782745)

            It's actually quite uncommon. Of the probably ten large (multimillion-dollar, international) corporations I have worked for, only one had this provision.

            I do software development - one of the most contentious patent fields right now, and probably the easiest field to slyly slip away with some company property(code) and do what you will with it. The one that did have that provision was a short contract, so I never really had a chance to work on anything out-of-office that they would want.

            It shows active malice and contempt toward your employees to say something they make in their free time, at home, with their own materials, is your property. If I ever go back on the job hunt, I sure as hell won't be pursuing any jobs with that clause.

            Telling me anything I code in my free time at home is theirs would mean I don't code in my free time at home. Me not coding at home would eventually make me loathe the company, and I'd probably just end up quitting in frustration so I can have my free time to myself again. Not a super productive environment for employees.

      • "their out-of-the-office creations should not be owned by employers either. This should be a default, intrinsic right, and not something employees have to battle for."

        And so it is in more civilized countries.

    • Re:Kid's artwork? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:15PM (#42781035)

      Most tech companies claim ownership of anything created by employees, whether created at work or on their own time.

      But, the students are not employees, and signed no waiver when they enrolled. Claiming ownership of the student's creations is rediculous.

      That's not the case in California. Or rather, companies may still claim ownership of all inventions in their employment contract, but it's not enforceable. If the invention is done on the employee's own time and equipment and is not related to or derived from the employee's work at the company, the company has no right of ownership:

      http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=lab&group=02001-03000&file=2870-2872 [ca.gov]

      • by pwizard2 (920421)
        I would hope most people would cross out any such clause in an employment contract before signing it (I would). Sorry, but some asshole executive doesn't get automatic rights to what I produce on my own time using my own resources. If they want to outright *buy* the project I might listen to what they have to say but no promises on whether I would be willing to take their offer. If I were working on a closed-source project on my own time with intent to sell it later and someone tried to steal it from me l
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ying Hu (704950)
        My school system (not in California) does not have any such claims in their employment contract, but does include such language in their Acceptable Use Policy for the computers and the school network - they claim anything stored on the school network is theirs. This has made me much more reluctant to put anything I create onto the network, but the part I find funny (and amazing) is that there is plenty of commercial stuff stored on our network servers for use by the teachers - videos from educational compa
    • by sjames (1099)

      Not only are they not employees, they are not free to resign until they turn 16 at least. The only reason it can't be considered slavery is that 'supposedly', the school is working for the parents to educate the child. The school claiming ownership of the child's work would, in fact, make it slavery.

    • Yea particularly if you get to higher levels where the students are paying to be there.

      Following current copyright logic...the students should get the rights to work created by teachers...given that the students are paying their salaries.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      To compound your point, is this a public school? If so then it is taxpayer funded. What is the point of copyrighting by the B.O.E, something owned by the public.
      Perhaps the B.O.E. got a substandard public education and doesn't know any better. Maybe, someone should test their literacy or their urine.

      • Re:Kid's artwork? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by evil_aaronm (671521) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:27PM (#42782445)
        Trust me - it's a power thing. I served on a BOE and saw it first-hand. Bunch of nobodys in Podunk, but they get elected to the board, and they think they can do whatever they like. Of course, the standard distribution curve applies, so you'll have some that take it to ridiculous extremes.
    • Re:Kid's artwork? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:59PM (#42781971)

      Yeah, but it's a great way to stifle teacher creativity. Why should the teachers bother to create anything that might be beneficial to the school if it will just be taken from them?

    • tech companies TRY to get you to agree to employment contracts saying that anything you do is theirs.

      in calif, this is not enforceable, though (ianal). ie, if you use your own equip on your own time and its not a core comp of the company, they have no claims on what you do at home.

      just try (at least) to get your contract clear on this. cross out the lines, say 'declined' and initial. its at least something.

      finally, have a lawyer on your side review employment agreements. its not cheap but they WILL catc

      • by Lothsahn (221388)
        ...or you could just go work for a company where they're reasonable. I've negotiated two changes to my employment agreement with my current company. One was before hiring on, and one was after. In both cases, I felt the original conditions of the employment agreement were reasonable, but in my certain circumstance I needed them changed. The company, seeing my (reasonable) requests, was happy to honor them.

        Now, if you're working at (insert huge company here that's too large, cumbersome, and inefficien
    • by bwcbwc (601780)

      Even more-so, copyrighting the kids work sounds like child labor slavery.
      1) Kids are required to go to school, and can be severely punished if they fail to attend.
      2) Kids are not paid to go to school.
      3) Kids and their parents are not able to negotiate assignment of copyright or licensing with the board, the right would just be taken.
      Sure sounds like slavery to me...

      Plus, if the school wants to get the rights to use a kid's work, images, etc., there is already a parental waiver process in most school distric

  • Yeah, fuck off. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:49PM (#42780833) Journal

    Profane, but seriously, fuck off.

    On what grounds do they thing they possibly own student work?

    I can vaguely see an exceptionally unethical argument for teachers work, but student work? It's not like they have a choice as to whether they attend and it sure as hell is not work for hire.

    What is wrong with these people?

    • Re:Yeah, fuck off. (Score:4, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:10PM (#42781007)

      This has been the case for a while where student work is turned over to a plagiarism screening service which then owns a copy of the work in perpetuity, whether or not the student consents to it.

      • Re:Yeah, fuck off. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:23PM (#42781093)

        Owning a copy of it is quite different than owning the copyright on it.

        • Owning a copy of it is quite different than owning the copyright on it.

          It is an inbetween state. The plagarism guys claim to own more than a single copy, but they don't claim unlimited unlimited rights to redistribute.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:49PM (#42780839) Homepage

    Well, they can, but it won't be legally binding until they get the employees and students to agree to assign their copyrights.

    • If there's no union contract and no law to protect teachers' jobs, then the employer can simply say "by showing up for work after __REASONABLY_FAR_IN_THE_FUTURE_DATE__ you agree to __NEW_CONDITIONS_OF_EMPLOYMENT__.

      For most jobs, "reasonably far in the future date" for a change that hurts employees would be anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months for items that can wait, or immediately for health and safety issues, emergencies, and issues where the deadline is imposed from outside (e.g. a change in law), etc.

      F

      • by Kjella (173770)

        If there's no union contract and no law to protect teachers' jobs, then the employer can simply say "by showing up for work after __REASONABLY_FAR_IN_THE_FUTURE_DATE__ you agree to __NEW_CONDITIONS_OF_EMPLOYMENT__.

        For things actually in the work contract, I've never seen that happen without a signature agreeing to the new terms. What happens when it goes to court and you say "Please provide proof I agreed to or was even aware of these new terms." and they can't? Things that are only company policies though can change at any time, the work contract just contains the very basics.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Copyright is implied, unless you decide otherwise. The reason that people add the copyright sign or add the words and the year make it easier to proof, but that does not make it so.

    • Well, I am no law expert. But for items like tests, which the school board pays the teachers to create, I am pretty sure they already own them.

      For lesson plans, it would depend on the wording of the employee contract, I imagine and your interpretation of the law. It is reasonable to assume that an employee might own a method he developed to do a job, but the contract very well might state that making a lesson plan is a part of the job since every one knows you NEED a lesson plan to teach a class. And even i

    • Well, they can, but it won't be legally binding until they get the employees and students to agree to assign their copyrights.

      A contract signed by a minor isn't binding!

      Hopefully, this is how it works in Canada as well.

  • On the other hand... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Soluzar (1957050)
    This seems to be only about "work produced for the school", meaning papers for class, lesson plans and the like. It doesn't seem as though they plan to lay claim to your Great American Novel (TM) if you plan on writing one while enrolled or employed there.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      I don't think attending the school and working on a school project is considered "work for hire." So, I guess the school system can say whatever it wants. It can claim PI is 3, but it doesn't make it so
    • by Drishmung (458368)

      This seems to be only about "work produced for the school", meaning papers for class, lesson plans and the like. It doesn't seem as though they plan to lay claim to your Great American Novel (TM) if you plan on writing one while enrolled or employed there.

      For the pupils at least, that claim also likely has no standing, notwithstanding any delusional beliefs to the contrary of the board.

      As per analysis of the contract in the Hobbit [wired.com]

      All contracts require some consideration from all parties to the contract. Consideration, in the contract sense, means a bargained-for performance or promise. Restatement (Second) of Contracts 71(1). Basically, this is something of value given or promised as part of the agreement. This can be anything that the parties agree is valuable; the classic example is a single peppercorn. Whitney v. Stearns, 16 Me. 394, 397 (1839).

      That means, the school has to explicitly give the pupils something in exchange for their copyright. 'Teaching' can't be it, since they are obliged to do that anyway.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        This seems to be only about "work produced for the school", meaning papers for class, lesson plans and the like. It doesn't seem as though they plan to lay claim to your Great American Novel (TM) if you plan on writing one while enrolled or employed there.

        For the pupils at least, that claim also likely has no standing, notwithstanding any delusional beliefs to the contrary of the board.

        As per analysis of the contract in the Hobbit [wired.com]

        All contracts require some consideration from all parties to the contract. Consideration, in the contract sense, means a bargained-for performance or promise. Restatement (Second) of Contracts 71(1). Basically, this is something of value given or promised as part of the agreement. This can be anything that the parties agree is valuable; the classic example is a single peppercorn. Whitney v. Stearns, 16 Me. 394, 397 (1839).

        That means, the school has to explicitly give the pupils something in exchange for their copyright. 'Teaching' can't be it, since they are obliged to do that anyway.

        How about they get an A?

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:00PM (#42780951) Journal

    > 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

    So, my daughter went to an art magnet school. During that time she created many works of art, some of which she entered into contests and won awards. She has commercial plans for a series of cartoon characters she invented while in school. If the school claimed ownership, she would not hesitate to sue, and she'd have a lot of company. Content creators can get really sticky about their own content, even as teenagers.

    Therefore, I don't think the part about the school copyrighting content created by the students is going to fly. All they'd need is a couple of high profile losses, and we'd skip immediately to step 4, punishment of the innocent.

    • It isn't as if they'd just suddenly start claiming copyright. They'd tell all students to have their parents sign something giving them copyright, or leave the school.
  • Classic MBA Crap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:04PM (#42780969)
    Some MBA heard that x% of employees are earning a few dollars on the side and they realized that this could plug some budget holes (holes created by administration taking trips to Hawaii to learn the latest in ed-tech).

    But in classic MBA style they forget about incentive where if they take that money then the work won't be done. I suspect that again in classic MBA style that they need to "centralize" and "quality control" information leaving the system.

    This probably all stems from a requirement from some way overpriced anti-plagiarism software; even worse the pitch from said salesman might have documented (with great pie charts) that by doing this money grab the anti-plagiarism software would effectively be free.

    Lastly by claiming copyright they get better control over information that makes them look bad. So if some student makes a video of a drunk teacher and puts it on youtube then the school system will demand that youtube take it down on the grounds that they have copyright. I would love to see them trying to apply this to teachers with blogs, twitter accounts, and writing op-ed pieces for the local newspaper. These fools forget that there are a zillion places to put a drunk teacher video that will oddly enough defend the students' first amendment rights.

    To me this is just another great lesson for the kids that they learn that the educational system exists not one spec for them but entirely for the administration. In Ontario, Canada the school board got completely screwed by the government (before they screwed the government) so now like petulant children they are trying to keep the teachers from extra-curricular activities. They are now arguing that holding back these services won't harm the children. Whoa, wait a sec. Losers.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      They wouldn't have ownership of the video of the drunk teachers. Unless that happened during class, it would be a leap too far to take that anything the students do during the time they are still in school belongs to the school. At best they could claim ownership for materials created in or for school, and that's likely a stretch.

      • I remember smoking a joint in the car on the way to high school, pulled up to a red light and there was our math teacher smoking a joint. We honked. Nobody snitched.

  • "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."

    Just wow. Normally I would say if you live in PG county, now is the time to move. But the sad reality is that PG county is much poorer than neighboring Montgomery county... it's always been time to move
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Doesn't seem so bad. Just don't create anything specifically for the use of the school. That lesson plan? Nah, it's for my use, not the school's. Make up a poster for the school dance? Sorry, you'll need a signed waiver from the board before I'll start.

    • by BitterOak (537666)
      But read the quote in your own comment:

      "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." [emphasis added]

      So this covers only assignments for school, not personal stuff you create at home for other purposes, such as that novel you've been writing. (Unless you turn in chapters of that novel for creative writing assignments!)

  • At my university, this is already the policy, more or less. If you develop software and release it GPL, they'll let you be. But otherwise, they own everything you produce. This is also true for most companies. Interestingly, if a history prof writes a book, he gets to keep all the profit. But if you as an engineer or programmer develop something and try to sell it without the university, even if done on your own time, the university will claim a conflict of interest and claim ownership. Many corporati

  • by snspdaarf (1314399) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @07:20PM (#42781067)
    1. Form an LLC
    2. Acting as your child's agent, put them under contract with the LLC for their creative works until their 18th birthday, with an option for the child to retrieve all their rights from the LLC at that time.
    3. ???
    4. Screw the school district!
  • They are at least thinking about the issue before there are lawsuits.

    Hopefully they will think a little more and come up with something less outrageous. My university's policy was that the student owned the copyright but the university acquired a royalty-free licence for its own use.

  • If it was a private school doing this I could see they might have a chance of an argument. As a public school system, tax payer funded, doing this it is complete crap. Isn't there something in the u US about government agencies not holding copyrights anyway? Or is that just on the federal level? Or am I completely mistaken on this point?
    • 3.1.3 Does 17 USC Â10560 apply to works of State and Local Governments?

      No, it applies only to federal government works. State and local governments may and often do claim copyright in their publications. It is their prerogative to set policies that may allow, require, restrict or prohibit claim of copyright on some or all works produced by their government units.

      • by luckymutt (996573)
        Ah...thanks for the clarification.
        PG County's proposal is still BS. At least for the student's work.
        Teachers, as employees, may well need to sign off on such things as terms of employment. I don't know. But it's an employer/employee relationship.
        That does not exist with the student, who is compelled to attend...see other posts for other reasons
        • I agree with you. You can't just impose such a thing without some sort of quid pro quo.

          From the articles it's looking like they are starting to realize this as well.

  • "I believe my response would be go to Hell. "

    You can't just be angry at the messages coming out of this crazy factory. You have to be angry at institutional structures encouraging the lunacy coming out of these boards on a seemingly daily basis.

  • of the need to repeal copyright

    • You might want to flesh out how, exactly, you got from A to B there. If anything, abolishing copyright would make it easier for the school board to steal their students work.

  • They can't take copyright without compensation. It would mean renegotiating the contracts for teachers.

    If they want the copyright on my kids work, that will $1000 a page. The kid is a creative genius.
    I will supply the crayons the paper. If they are willing to pay.

  • No. Sorry. You cannot copyright that which you a.) don't create, and b.) don't pay for. Sorry. but students are not your employees, nor are they work-for-hire unless you decide to start paying them for coming to school.

    How much you wanna bet a Republicant was behind this brain-dead idea?

    • Not very much. Maryland is a very blue state.

      • Actually after a bit more reading it turns out they came up with this brilliant idea after attending an Apple seminar about how to monetize the things teachers create using school-owned iCrap devices.

        So no, not Republicants. Worse. Apple.

  • If work done by a teacher at home because property of the school, then that work would become work for the school Then, any injury at home tangentially related to the work would become a work related injury.

  • The school board is going to be faced with very expensive legal fees and lose. This will get challenged and their claim to ownership of student works will be thrown out. Hopefully the school board will be forced to pay the legal fees of the kids and a class action lawsuit will be brought against the school board heaping on more costs so that nobody else tries this. Copyright law is pretty clear that the creator of the work is the copyright owner unless explicitly otherwise agreed. Students are minors and ca

  • So, what would've happened if this was a policy at the University of Helsinki, in 1991?

    • by Dwedit (232252)

      If it was still released under the GPL, then it wouldn't matter who owned the copyright on it.

      • by dwye (1127395)

        So, what would've happened if this was a policy at the University of Helsinki, in 1991?

        If it was still released under the GPL, then it wouldn't matter who owned the copyright on it.

        But if U. of H. owned the copyright, Linus releasing software under the GPL would be illegal (without the University's prior approval) because he would be releasing a work that he did not own, like a film editor releasing a version of a movie before the studios which produced it could.

  • It's not unusual for a company to hold the rights to an employee's work...

    This is true... but the company is actually *PAYING* the employee.

    Last time I checked, you have to pay to go to school.

  • Teaching is a collegial activity, so a good lesson plan would normally be shared within a staff room. Student's work is produced by minors where the school is 'in loco parentis' so their work would become school property to protect them from exploitation by adults, plagiarists and commercial interests.

    That's how it works in Australia. Public school teachers are state employees so all their work is the property of the Crown. Good teaching material can be (and is) distibuted to other publis schools to give system-wide improvement. A teacher who gains a reputation for producing good stuff can negotiate this into promotion or a consultancy. State employees are not supposed to produce any paid work outside their job but in practice teachers who work as tutors, coaches or musicians etc are not imposed upon by the government as there is a tacit acknowledgement that teachers often need another income. Private school teachers' work is the property of their employee (diocesan office, school board) for much the same reason.

    School administrators (puiblic or private) have a legal 'duty of care' to children. They won't stop parents from taking their kids to modeling agencies or auditions but if they produce something in school, say their major artwork for the matriculation exam, the school can arrange a professional exhibition and prevent students from beign ripped off.

    American libertarians will doubt that government agencies can be benign (and if you want gold medal bastardry only a government can provide it) but not all countries have vast armies, huge spy agencies, heavily armed police or kill people with robot aircraft. The Department of Education will be staffed at policy and implementation level by people who believe in the value of education and teachers actually like children!

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:40PM (#42782201) Homepage

    I'm just thankful that we've made the news without any murders [somd.com], theft [nbcwashington.com], or corruption [wikipedia.org].

    I thought that we had gotten rid of the idiotic school board when they disbanded it in 2002 and got Marilyn Bland and the others out of there. (although, we haven't gotten rid of her yet [wordpress.com])

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:43PM (#42782219)

    Among many others, including the fact that the teachers (not all, but many) are horrible, standardized testing, and well, the fact that PG county is a shitty area.

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