Dear Parents, We Own Your Child’s Copyrights, Signed – The School Board

Dear Parents, We Own Your Child’s Copyrights, Signed – The School Board

A Board of Education in Maryland is attempting to exert ownership over the copyrights of teachers, students and employees.

According to Fox News, a proposed draft from Maryland's Prince George County Board would provide the Board with copyright ownership in works "created by employees and/or students specifically for use" by the public school.

A backlash from parents and teachers has put the policy on hold pending review.

As written, ownership could extend to student homework projects, artwork and creative writings. The draft also includes an expansive category, "other works created for classroom use and instruction," that would provide the Board with broad reach.

While the student policy is novel, the Board's policy towards teachers is not without precedent. In Shaul v. Cherry Valley-Springfield Cent. Sch. Dist., 363 F.3d 177 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2004) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers], the Second Circuit held that under 17 U.S.C. § 201(b)'s work-for-hire exception,  a school district was the author of a teacher's creations.

"Without denigrating in any way the time and effort devoted by Shaul [the teacher] in fulfilling his teaching duties," the court said, "we hold that his ownership of the tests, quizzes, homework problems, and other teaching materials in his former classroom is precluded by the work-for-hire doctrine."

The Prince George policy reflects an increased effort from educational institutions to take control of student / employee copyrights. As reported last year, UC Berkeley put into question the ownership of student lecture notes. Another article highlighted the University of Louisiana's intellectual property policy, which, at the time, could be read as giving the University a stake in royalties - up to 60% -- from faculty books and artistic works. 

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