Monday, January 25, 2010

School wants to claim copyright over lesson plans

I came across this article a while back on TechDirt (quite a few comments on the techdirt take!) Now the idea here is that any material or intellectual property created by a district employee, with either indirect or direct support from the district, would belong to the district. This may sound like a good idea, but it is an inherently bad idea - and it's bad on so many levels.

From a philosophical point of view, knowledge should be freely available. Our libraries are here to safeguard that. How one helps others gain knowledge should also be available free of charge. Great ideas come from collaboration, and being able to freely exchange materials with fellow professionals improves the creation and refinement of great products and methods.

Second there is the whole issue of tax-payer dollars. The school, be it K-12 of Higher Education is getting money from the state and probably even the federal government. If the school is private it probably is a not-for-profit and (if I am not mistaken) there are provisions in certain non-profits that require the benefit of all in order to be a non-profit organization. One way to ensure that others are benefiting is the sharing of resources. One such initiative is Open Courseware. If you have open courseware, why would you object to sharing materials? If you don't have OCW, why don't you?

My two cents on the matter are as follows: educational materials created by university and school employees on the clock (or for a specific course) should be available under creative commons licensing. You require attribution so that the work of the original creator is acknowledged, you require share alike so that any changes to the material are shared, and you make them non-commercial so that people looking to leech from other's hard work can't. Simple! :-)
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