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Poetry and snark blogger who also has a creative side (who knew?)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Maryland School District Plans to Steal Student Work

Parents, has your child ever written a really good essay, story, or poem for a school assignment? Has he or she ever drawn or painted a really terrific picture? Teachers, have you ever written your own lesson plan to use with your class and found it to be a huge success? Pretty proud of those creative, innovative, and intelligent works, huh? Well, if you live in Prince George's County, Maryland, make sure you give credit to the school system because they own the copyright to your and your children's work!

A recent proposal by the Prince George's County Board of Education seeks to copyright work created by staff and students for school (Washington Post, March 2, 2013). The policy was created to address the increased use of technology in the classroom and to make clear that material created with apps on iPads owned by the school are the property of the school. However, the Prince George's proposal goes further. It states that even work created for school on teachers' or students' own time at home and using their own materials belongs to the school system.  Thus, any profits from teacher or student work would also belong to the school system.

Many school districts, such as nearby Montgomery County, do have policies stating that work created by employees using "substantial time, facilities or materials" belong to the school system, but none has a rule about ownership of student work. Additionally, most universities have "sharing agreements" in which work created by professors and college students benefits all parties involved, not just the university. 

Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs stated that it is not the intention of the PG County school system to "declare ownership" of students' work but to make sure that the school district "gets recognition." Jacobs did not elaborate on what "recognition" actually means. As written, the school district gets more than recognition for projects created for school; it gets ownership and whatever profits may accrue if the project is marketed. 

We all know that children in the public school system give up some of their rights when on school property. They may have to adhere to dress codes, and their behavior is regulated. Teachers also are prohibited from talking about certain topics while at work or engaging in certain behaviors. This policy, however, strips students and teachers of their intellectual property rights. It could potentially stifle the creativity and motivation of both teachers and students, which is the polar opposite of what a good school district should be aiming to do.



  1. Facebook has the same policy, in the small print. Anything a person posts belongs to them. Hence, the total absence of me or my poems on Facebook.

    Sorry it took me so long to get to this post! *snork*

    1. Wow. Now I feel even more justified in my refusal to engage in Facebook!

  2. As an IP attorney I'd say it will never stand up in court. But then never say never, I've been wrong before. It is just that I cannot see any legal basis for the school to claim ownership of student material. Even under the work for hire principle the school has a hard time claiming teacher's work because the primary purpose of their employment is to teach not produce creative materials. The only way is if it's agreed to under contract law.


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