Question of the week:
I have a teacher that has created a creative commons curriculum. It's on a Google Site. It is amazing. My problem is that he has created it on his professional site - which is a a public Google site and and he has purchased a domain name for it. While he has clearly licensed it under Creative Commons, I have concerns about what would happen if he leaves, if he got hit by a bus, etc. Do you have any thoughts to this or a policy? We dont care that he has developed CC curriculum. I am more concerned about the physical space it resides on - and lack of district control. Should I be?
Our local university is a part of MNSCU (the Minnesota State Colleges and University system) and their 3.26 Intellectual Property board policy gives some guidance. At the heart, it recognizes four types of IP:
- Institutional Works: "Institutional works are works made for hire in the course and scope of employment by employees or by any person with the use of college or university resources, unless the resources were available to the public without charge or the creator had paid the requisite fee to utilize the resources. A course outline is an institutional work." These belong to the institution.
- Scholarly Works: "Scholarly works are creations that reflect research, creativity, and/or academic effort. Scholarly works include course syllabi, instructional materials (such as textbooks and course materials), distance learning works, journal articles, research bulletins, lectures, monographs, plays, poems, literary works, works of art (whether pictorial, graphic, sculptural, or other artistic creation), computer software/programs, electronic works, sound recordings, musical compositions, and similar creations." These belong to the individual who created them.
- Personal Works: "A personal work is a work created by an employee or student outside his or her scope of employment and without the use of college or university resources other than resources that are available to the public or resources for which the creator has paid the requisite fee to utilize." These belong to the individual who created them.
- Student Works: "a) Intellectual property rights in student works belong to the student who created the work. b) A creative work by a student to meet course requirements using college or university resources for which the student has paid tuition and fees to access courses/programs or using resources available to the public, is the property of the student. c) A work created by a student employee during the course and scope of employment is an institutional work and intellectual property rights to such creation belong to the college or university unless an agreement, sponsorship agreement, or other condition described in Subpart B or C below provides otherwise." So the ownership of student works depends on whether it is done as a student or as a student employee.
Were the teacher who created the CC course a member of MNSCU, my reading of this policy gives him, not the school, ownership of the course since it fits the Scholarly Works category.
Yet one of the few schools in Minnesota that I am aware of having having a board policy on who owns IP is quite different. Its policy states:
Unless the employee develops, creates or assists in developing or creating a publication, instructional material, computer program, invention or creation entirely on the employee’s own time and without the use of any school district facilities or equipment; the employee shall immediately disclose and, on demand of the school district, assign to the school district any rights to publications, instructional materials, computer programs, materials posted on websites, inventions or creations that the employee develops or creates or assists in developing or creating during the term of the employee’s employment and for 12 months after employment with ______ Public Schools. In addition, employees must sign necessary documents and perform necessary acts to secure the school district’s rights relating to such publications, instructional materials, computer programs, materials posted on websites, inventions or creations, including domestic and foreign patents and copyrights.
So in order to answer the question above, we would need more information according to this school's policy - when and where was the material created, not specifically for what purpose. My sense is that determining "on whose time" a product is created may become increasingly difficult as work life and personal life seem to be more and more blended and there is the expectation that teachers do a lot work outside the "contract day."
K-12 schools probably need more rights to teacher created materials since their curricula are more standardized continuous than that of a university's. What a teacher creates for a class that supports state standards can be used by many teachers over an extended period of time. In my experience teaching post-secondary classes, every instructor basically starts from scratch following only general content guidelines so access and use by contemporary and future instructors is not as important.
Another way to address this issue is by taking the approach that the MN Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum & Innovative Instruction has taken and set clear property rules up front for a specific project. Teachers work on the course for a set payment, knowing they have access via CC, but not ownership.
Here's another POV worth considering...
We do not have an IP policy, though the question has been posed. IMHO, the likelihood of needing to enforce IP rights by a district are very small while the risk of perturbation of staff by stating that we own IP rights to 99% of classroom material is high. In addition, if we get ourselves in a situation of enforcing rights, having a policy or not having a policy is likely irrelevant.