Who Owns My Stuff?

There have been quite a few posts on edublogs the past few weeks about a new site that allows teachers to sell their “original course materials” online.

I wonder if these new authors realize that the materials may not be theirs to sell.

In most cases, if a teacher creates a class activity during the work day, it’s most likely the property of the school or district for which they work.

Even if the materials are created at home, they may not have rights to sell it. There have been instances in business where an employee found that a project created on his own time was the legal property of their company.

Although I’ve never seen this applied in K12 education, it’s possible to make the case depending on the contract signed by the teachers (and which we all read very carefully, right?).

At the college level it’s even worse. There have been many fights over who owns the intellectual property created by professors and others, especially as the institutions try to sell online courses.

This is not to say that teachers shouldn’t try to make a little extra money by marketing their original creations. Just be careful and always read the fine print.

There aren’t many of us with the cash to pay for a good lawyer.

Update (7/8): I missed Miguel’s coverage of this topic last week in which he offers some good information on the topic (as opposed to my speculation :-).

teacherspayteachers, copyright

5 thoughts on “Who Owns My Stuff?

  • July 8, 2006 at 7:29 am
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    Miguel, Don’t you hate that, you write something that you’ve thought about for a little while only to find that somebody else wrote about it earlier. It seem to be the way of the blogs. I put something up on my blog the other day about the Columbine Killers papers as soon as I found out about it. I was thrilled when I later found out that AP put it up an hour later. (No, I’m not naive enough to believe that AP learned about it from me. But at least I beat them to the punch for my tine circle of readers.)
    Andrew Pass
    http://www.Pass-Ed.com/blogger.html

  • July 8, 2006 at 9:09 am
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    Ooops! Sorry, Miguel. I messed up that one! I guess I have too many feeds to keep up with in my aggregator. :-)

  • July 9, 2006 at 9:50 pm
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    Miguel’s post pretty much summed it up. If you haven’t gotten permission from your school district (of which I would get it in writing) then the district could come after you for copyright infringement. Although I don’t know too many districts that would want to risk alienating their staff over what will probably be small amounts of money. I think this may be a case where a teacher would be better off to square away their rights before they try to sell them.

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