Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« The New School Library - Oct 13 Ed Leadership column online | Main | No such thing as a small technology problem »

Dual ownership of IP - a win-win policy?

Last week, I wrote that I am developing a board policy on IP rights of teachers and the school related to instructional materials. This is becoming increasingly important as more teachers are using Moodle units that they create and fewer are using textbooks. Since one of our district's curricular goals is to become "standards-based" rather than textbook-driven, I see this trend growing.

In the few policies I've looked at, K-12 schools basically say that if something is created on school time with school resources, it belongs to the school. University policies basically say that anything created by the professor belongs to the professor. I see neither stance as desirable since the first policy may discourage teacher creativity and productivity - and the other policy leaves the organization and other teachers without legal access to the  teacher-created materials.

What I would like to do is create a policy that gives ownership of the material to both the teacher and the school. (Hey, two people can own a house, a car, a business, etc....) One of the interesting properties of intellectual property is that multiple people can have the use of it at the same time, unlike physical property that can really only be used by one person at a time. Here is how our policy might look:
  • Neither party (talking like a lawyer now) could place any restrictions on its use by the other party.
  • Both parties could use it for commercial purposes (sell it, sell it as part of a larger commercial work like a book or for-pay course, etc.).
  • Neither party may make claims to any profits made by the other party.
  • Neither party could limit the other party's right to assign a Creative Commons license to it or place it in the Public Domain.
  • The teacher could take the work with him/her when they go to another job.
  • The district could keep using the material after the teacher leaves.
Teacher-created materials would be defined as anything in any media created during contract hours, using school equipment, or as part of contractual duties regardless if when it was created.

Is this feasible? Or legal? Or desirable?

Quite honestly, I don't see any losers in this scenario - except perhaps for control freaks.


Other policies:

Texas default local policy:

And a local regulation:

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (4)

I felt led to comment on this post, and enthusiastically encourage you. I think it's a splendid idea. We have teachers building courses on Moodle and (so far) are open/willing to share with everyone. However, there have been times where a teacher is threatened or feels like they are competing with one another. That, coupled with the always-present possibility of leaving on poor terms, present an ideal climate for such a policy.

I'd be interested in seeing the policy that results after the lawyers have digested it.
I'd even go so far as to propose it to the 4 public districts I service.

Win-win, indeed!

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Thanks, Josh. If we get a board approved policy, I will certainly share it with Blue Skunk readers.


September 26, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I really like this idea of shared ownership, and I think from a district/staff perspective it is fair and make the most sense.
Today, someone asked me about student work. I did a search for student intellectual property and student work on both of our Websites. and came up blank.
We have modified the "Code of Ethics" in our AUP to acknowledge that we want to help students build a positive digital footprint, but we really haven't gone into who owns student work.
I like what MNSCU had on their IP page regarding this, which you posted recently.
Curious about your thoughts...

October 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Walker

Hi Mike,

Here is MNSCU's policy:

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.
That looks pretty good to me. I'd change the part about being a student employee, perhaps, if it is even germane to K-12.


October 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>