If a high school student writes an app for a class assignment or a teacher develops great lesson plans, who owns the copyright? In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the school board proposes claiming ownership of all work created for school use by students or teachers — even if it’s done on their own time with their own resources.
There’s a growing online market for teacher lesson plans, Kevin Welner, director of the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center, told the Washington Post. “I think it’s just the district saying, ‘If there is some brilliant idea that one of our teachers comes up with, we want be in on that. Not only be in on that, but to have it all,’ ” he said.
Claiming the right to students’ work is unlikely to hold up in court.
For Adrienne Paul and her sister, Abigail Schiavello, who wrote a 28-page book more than a decade ago in elementary school for a project that landed them a national television interview with Rosie O’Donnell and a $10,000 check from the American Cancer Society, the policy — had it been in effect — would have meant they would not have been able to sell the rights to Our Mom Has Cancer.
Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs said it was not the board’s “intention to declare ownership” of students’ work, just to “get the recognition.” The language should be changed before final approval, she said.
If a teacher develops lessons, software, apps or anything else on her own time, why should the rights belong to the school district?
There can be big money in educational apps. An independent developer made $700,000 in two years from an app aimed at homeschoolers.