Copyright Insanity: School Policy Requires Students Hand Over Copyright On All Work

from the that-test-you-got-a-C-on?-school's-copyright dept

There are some absolutely ridiculous situations created by the fact that all creative works are automatically granted a copyright on being put into a fixed form. Mostly, we just ignore these situations, because the vast majority of them never matter. But, as copyright has become more and more ridiculous, some people are beginning to start to make use of the stupid fact that all kinds of things can be "owned" that probably shouldn't be "ownable." Take, for example, school work. If a student creates something, it is covered by copyright, though most people never really consider or care about that. However, the board of education for Prince George County in Maryland is apparently considering a new "copyright policy" in which all students and staff would have to assign all of those copyrights over to the school system itself.

The school board claims it's doing this to keep up with the times -- especially the growing use of things like electronic curricula created by teachers, but obviously the policy goes way beyond that. Of course, we've seen other schools get greedy and seek to copyright and sell off curricula created by teachers. And that's already a crazy idea. But to have students' work included as well is (rightfully) angering a number of people.

Either way, this is yet another example of the insanity created by "ownership society," in which people are being fed the ridiculous line that all ideas and information can and should be "owned" thanks to things like copyright and patents. Is it any wonder that now our public schools even going down to elementary schools, are seeking the "rights" to student creations in order to create for profit ventures? This is a public school system, a place in which knowledge is supposed to be shared for the sake of learning. And the lesson they're sending is that information is to be hoarded by powerful entities for the sake of profits. Shameful.


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    Ninja (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    Is it any wonder that now our public schools even going down to elementary schools, are seeking the "rights" to student creations in order to create for profit ventures?

    It's for the children! Are you possibly telling us that you don't care about the children Mike? You know, the school must do that to protect the children from having their creative works from being downloaded by people like you and TD freetards. Filthy pirates, all the lot of you.

    /delusionaltroll

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:15am

      Re:

      I'd bet this has to do with the online sites where students can post their old homework assignments and then future students can find their answers when they are faced with the same assignment. The school system doesn't want to create a new curriculum each semester, if they do this, they can abuse the DMCA takedown process like all other legacy industries.

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Minor problem with that. If children can not sign legal documents without their parents, how is this supposed to work?

     

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      Parents already have to sign various documents when they register their kids for school. This will just be another form in the packet that (almost) no one ever reads.

       

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        Mr. Applegate, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        And if you object and refuse to sign they won't let your child attend class.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          ...and then they'll take you to court when they don't go to school.

           

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          Bengie, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          IANAL, but public school is a right.

          Why my brother was kicked from school, the school had to pay for his private schooling because the public school refused to take him.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:18am

        Re: Re:

        Can a parent sign away a right? I thought the rights granted by the constitution were natural rights that one is born with. How can they be transferred, let alone signed away by someone else on your behalf.

         

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          Mason Wheeler (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, but copyright is not a natural, constitutional right. It's a statutory right deriving from a law that the Constitution authorizes (but does not require) Congress to create.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:17am

      Re:

      Actually, children can sign legal documents. Problem is, however, that for those who are under the age of majority and not an "emancipated minor" the document is legally worthless and unenforceable. More problematic, however, is that in Maryland its constitution mandates the provision of a free public education. In my opinion this is a hurdle that is almost certainly insurmountable.

       

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    Joseph M. Durnal, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    Love my state

    Right or wrong, the school system could do this for teachers, it is common for employers to do this. Students on the other hand, they don't really have a choice but to do the work assigned to them.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:17am

      Re: Love my state

      What about when they claim copyright for the best selling novel that a teacher or student wrote using a school provided machine?

       

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    Applesauce, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Doesn't go far enuf

    Your grade school teacher taught you to read and write, right?
    Isn't only fair that she (and the administrators who guided her) should get a percentage of the proceeds from your written work as an adult?
    Won't somebody please think of the teachers???

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:20am

      Re: Doesn't go far enuf

      What is even more important: For each page of a book used in school there should be a considerable forced royalty to the publisher of the work (and just to push it through the government, maybe even a small percent for the authors). Sure, educational use is an exemption to copyright, but if the teacher is reading it, it has to be "public performance" and since that is covered by copyright it is proposterous to claim an exemption! That would erode all copyright as we know it and kill our children!

      Please think of our future! (signed publishers of all sorts)

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re: Doesn't go far enuf

        Pages on books, eh? Don't forget to pay the paper mill for your paper licenses.
        Let's see, that's one licence per page, per book, per student, plus the added fee for printing on both sides of a page. There's also the licenses for teachers, and the licenses for any relevant art supplies, like construction paper. (Oh, and naturally the school will have to surrender any confiscated copyrights for works created on paper media.) Altogether, I'd say that's about 90,000 paper licenses. Eh, make it an even 100,000.
        It's not easy for paper manufacturers to get by in the digital era, y'know. Everyone's going "paperless" these days. Won't someone think of the paper manufacturers?!

        (Now, let's talk toilet paper. You can pay by the square if you like, but I personally recommend buying bulk licenses...)

         

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:25am

      Re: Doesn't go far enuf

      Isn't only fair that she (and the administrators who guided her) should get a percentage of the proceeds from your written work as an adult?
      I assume you meant that as funny, but actually it's a pretty good analogy for how stupid rights to derivative works are in copyright as a whole.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2013 @ 3:50am

      Re: Doesn't go far enuf

      A couple of years ago, in response to lobbying from Sir Cliff Richard and others on the length of copyright in sound recordings I made a similar argument in "A Modest Proposal" on copyright whereby all the teachers of any successful artist of any type (music, literature, visual work) should receive a portion of their royalties. After all, many teachers end their days on low pensions (one of the arguments put forward for extending sound recording copyright was the number of retired musicians in penury - ignoring of course the fact that most of them are in penury because they received so little payment and would not benefit from an extension since their work was "work for hire" and so they receive no royalties) and it's impossible to say that only Sir Cliff's music teachers had any impact on his work.
      The clue to the seriousness of my intent is in the name of the piece, of course.

       

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    Michael, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:08am

    in which knowledge is supposed to be shared for the sake of learning

    Yup, let's make sure our kids learn very early that if they are in any way creative, someone is going to try to screw them out of it and lock it up forever.

    It's like our school systems are trying to become record labels.

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Common.

    I went to school for architecture and everything I did in school was considered "work for hire" and was property of the school (even though I was paying them to be there).

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:22am

      Re: Common.

      I could somewhat argue that if you used their software and there computer systems then I would be work for hire. I would be against that if you created it on your system with software you paid for.

       

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        ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:25am

        Re: Re: Common.

        Most of my work was created on my system with either free software (google sketchup), free educational versions from autodesk, or other versions not provided by the school. (although plotted on their printers), or Hand drafted with my own tools (albeit on their desk).

         

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          Corwin (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:33am

          Re: Re: Re: Common.

          What rights does Google have to the work you did on sketchup? Might be interesting to read.

           

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            ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Common.

            Don't really know, Google aquired it from @Last software to bolster it's 3D buildings in maps/earth. It was just sold to Trimble this year, but there are thousands of profressionals (We use it at my office now for final renderings), We have the paid version in my office which allows higher resolution outputs, but I know others that just use the free version.

            I think my school primarily told us they owned everything so they could keep work for accreditation purposes without students crying foul (every 2-6 years depending on how well you scored), as any work they kept they typically gave you a 2 week window to pick up after an accreditation cycle (which was problematic because if they decided to keep your thesis work, you could be 5 years out of school and moved across the country and you had 2 weeks to arrange pick up of your best work before it hit a 40 yard dumpster outside).

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re: Common.

        You pay fees to use their software and computer systems. My engineering school has a $1k per semester fee on top of tuition just to cover those expenses.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:26am

      Re: Common.

      I'm not sure that actually counts as work for hire. Work for hire has a very specific legal definition. More likely that they have written into a contract that you have to agree to upon admission to the school that automatically means you have to waive any copyrights on work you did for school but that doesn't mean it's work for hire.

       

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        ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re: Common.

        your probably right, but that's the terminology the architecture professors used who were about as far from lawyers as you could get.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:29am

          Re: Re: Re: Common.

          There are only 2 ways something can be work for hire.

          1. If you are producing work as an employee.
          2. The work being produced is commissioned specifically to be used as part of a much larger work such as a forward for written by one author for a book by another or a musical score written specifically for a feature film.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:14am

    Hey, it's either take the rights to all your school work or raise taxes on you, or cut spending to education yet again and lay off your kids teachers!

    Who would even want to buy the rights to your elementary school homework? Umm... who cares! We just want to be able to sell off the rights to your school work to some lovely green skins trolls.

    What, you mean they're trolls who will sue other kids for violating the copyrights we sell them? Nonsense! That'll never happen, they're only interested in owning the rights to your schoolwork for 'educational' purposes.

     

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      aldestrawk (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:57am

      Re: This might have been the reasoning

      I kind of doubt it because this clever high school student worked with a John Hopkins University researcher and used the lab facilities there. It would seem that John Hopkins University would have the intellectual property rights over this invention in the form of a patent.

      I believe the motivation for usurping student copyrights is that school boards are notorious for grasping at whatever mechanism that gives them control over students. Suppose a student wrote an essay that, heaven forbid, caused a disruption in school and the community at large. What better way to suppress it, in this internet age where duplication is so easy, by claiming copyright infringement everywhere it appeared. Oh, "fair use" what's that? School boards always have more important considerations in protecting the children.

       

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        The Real Michael, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:41am

        Re: Re: This might have been the reasoning

        Yeah, pretty much. Copyright has proven to be an effective means of censorship while dodging First Amendment issues, so the next logical step towards controlling what people are allowed to say or do is to target children who probably are too naive to understand the (nefarious) implications.

         

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      ntp1 (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:42am

      Re: This might have been the reasoning

      I'm certain that someone in that room had that news item on their mind.

       

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      ntp1 (profile), Feb 8th, 2013 @ 11:42am

      Re: This might have been the reasoning

      I'm certain that someone in that room had that news item on their mind.

       

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    Cpt kangarooski, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    Halfassed.

    Though there has long been an exception to work made for hire for teachers, there's no real support for it in the statute or the leading case law, and if seriously challenged, I think the exception would fall. So the school board likely can do this for teachers by unilaterally imposing a policy.

    But work made for hire will fail against students, since it's based on federal employment law, basically, and it's just too far of a stretch to say that students are employees of their schools. Neither can an assignment occur: the copyright act requires that they be express, signed documents, and a unilateral school policy won't do. They could at most argue for a no exclusive license but it would still be weak IMO.

     

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    mhab, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    Dat A$$ (covering)!!!!

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Exactly how would this work? What if the student gets math homework: does the school now own the copyright to 2 + 2 = 4? I thought basic facts weren't copyrightable.
    How and why is the school justifying this? Its the student producing the work, using their own materials, albeit using certain guidelines, but its not a for-hire situation. The kid isn't doing this for profit, they're doing it to get an education, which is mandated by law.
    These are public schools, aren't they? As in, run by the government? I thought the government couldn't hold copyrights over material it produces. I can understand the
    letter of the law saying that that applies to staff only, not the students, but still...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      "I thought the government couldn't hold copyrights over material it produces."

      Only the federal government. And the material is produced by the students, not the government, so that wouldn't apply anyway. The federal government is allowed to OWN copyrights, it just can't directly produce copyrighted works.

      "What if the student gets math homework: does the school now own the copyright to 2 + 2 = 4? I thought basic facts weren't copyrightable. "

      If there's no copyright, then there's no copyright. I don't think they're doing this for the math homework. But maybe they'd like to reprint that essay a student wrote.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:24am

      Re:

      Yes. Technically that would mean that that the curricula created by the teachers (as employees of school district) would automatically be in the public domain. The works created by the students would not as they are not employees of the district.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    I didn't even realize public school's could copyright your work. Anyways it is certainly not what should be happening.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

      Re:

      It can't. The automatic copyright belongs to the author. This is a case where school policy is to require the student to sign the copyright over to them. The copyright begins as the student's.

       

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    Greg (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:37am

    public funding

    When I was in the military, every single document I created, bypassed the copyright system and went strait into the public domain. The rational given for this is that because the american public pays you to create those things (as well as kill people and blow shit up), the whole country owns them.

    Why is it any different in a public school? At least the work created by the teachers.

     

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      btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:24am

      Re: public funding

      > Why is it any different in a public school?
      > At least the work created by the teachers.

      Because the teachers work for the state and local governments, not the federal government.

      The Constitution forbids the federal government from copyrighting its own materials, but that prohibition doesn't apply to the states. In fact, many state constitutions expressly allow for copyright on state government materials.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: public funding

        "The Constitution forbids the federal government from copyrighting its own materials, but that prohibition doesn't apply to the states."

        The Constitution does not make this prohibition. Copyright law does.

         

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        cpt kangarooski, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: public funding

        That's incorrect. The constitution doesn't care about this issue at all.

        Rather, the copyright act (a federal law) says that works created by the federal government are ineligible for copyright. (17 USC 105 IIRC)

        Congress could easily amend the law to also prohibit states from having copyrights initially vested in them, but hasn't bothered. It would be a good idea, though.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

          Re: Re: Re: public funding

          > Congress could easily amend the law to also
          > prohibit states from having copyrights
          > initially vested in them

          How could Congress do that? Congress can't selectively decree who can and cannot have copyright protection. If it provides it to anyone, it has to be available to all. The only exception would be itself. It can deny copyright to itself, but not to anyone else.

          > Rather, the copyright act (a federal law) says

          Yes, I meant the US Code. I don't know why I wrote Constitution

           

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            Almost Anonymous (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 2:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: public funding

            Congress can't selectively decree who can and cannot have copyright protection. If it provides it to anyone, it has to be available to all.

            Ok, follow along with us slowly here:
            (from above) "Rather, the copyright act (a federal law) says that works created by the federal government are ineligible for copyright. (17 USC 105 IIRC)"

            Still with us? Ok, now:

            Congress makes and/or changes laws.

            That was a tough one, I agree. But stay in there:

            Congress can modify the copyright act to state that State and local government materials are *also* not eligible for copyright!

            Shizbam!

             

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              btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: public funding

              > Congress can modify the copyright act to state that
              > State and local government materials are *also* not
              > eligible for copyright!

              Take your smug ass and find a law book and read up on Equal Protection then come back and discuss this with the adults.

              > Shizbam!

              Child.

               

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            cpt kangarooski, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: public funding

            Congress can't selectively decree who can and cannot have copyright protection. If it provides it to anyone, it has to be available to all.

            Unless you're claiming that the 5th Amendment equal protection via due process clause requires this, I'll be damned if I see how. And I don't think that equal protection is a good argument here, unless the criteria for who doesn't get a copyright discriminates by the usual suspect classifications (e.g. race, gender).

            Being a state or foreign government is probably not going to elevate the standard beyond rational basis, which means the feds would win the day. (Besides, it's only fair, given the 11th Amendment immunity from infringement lawsuits that the states enjoy)

             

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              btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: public funding

              > Unless you're claiming that the 5th Amendment equal
              > protection...

              The Equal Protection Clause isn't in the 5th Amendment. It's in the 14th.

              > unless the criteria for who doesn't get a copyright discriminates
              > by the usual suspect classifications (e.g. race, gender).

              The Equal Protection Clause isn't dependent on those statutorily-created classes. It applies to all of society.

               

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                cpt kangarooski, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:35pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: public funding

                The Equal Protection Clause isn't in the 5th Amendment. It's in the 14th.

                The 14th Amendment equal protection clause only applies to the states by its own words. But there is a federal due process clause in the 5th amendment, and back when there was a companion case to Brown v. Board of Ed. having to do with the Washington DC schools, the Supreme Court found that the 5th Amendment functionally included equal protection at the federal level. (Otherwise they would had to have allowed school discrimination in DC) Since this is a federal issue we're talking about, the 5th Amendment clause is the relevant one.

                The Equal Protection Clause isn't dependent on those statutorily-created classes. It applies to all of society.

                At this point you might want to read up on how equal protection actually works in the US. The gist is that it is quite strict if it has to do with certain judicially recognized classifications, or elections, but quite deferential to the government in many other cases. Wikipedia has a decent article.

                Plus, state and foreign governments are not quite members of society in the ways that actual human beings are. In fact, given that the text refers explicitly to "persons," governments may not be eligible for it at all. I don't recall any cases addressing this issue and I'm too lazy to research it, but if anyone has anything, it would be interesting to see.

                 

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        The Real Michael, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:53am

        Re: Re: public funding

        I don't see much distinction anymore. It's obvious that braches of federal government and copyright-happy corporations are working hand-in-hand towards the same end goal, the latter acting more akin to an outlier party of government (in order to gobble up ownership of everything under the sun). In return, the federal government does the corporates' bidding by means of enforcement. Just look at how the government appoints industry point-men and women to positions of power.

        What we're left with is corporate-government ownership of culture, which of course works more often than not against the public, just as it was designed to.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:45am

    So what happens when a student refuses to sign over copyright?

    This is a public school board, right? Legally, they cannot deny a student an education, right?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:09pm

      Re:

      As a parent who has refused to sign a document or two when enrolling my child in public school, if you do this in my state, nothing will happen.

      But the rules vary from state to state, and possibly from school district to school district, so YMMV.

       

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    zorba the great, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:46am

    Can't wait until the first case where a group of kids are caught cheating that one tries to get out of it by litigating the others for copyright infringement.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:22am

      Re:

      If everyone gets a perfect score on a test, the first one finished owns the copyright, the rest of the students then owe him for infringing on his work.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    I wonder if there are any problems in requiring a student to transfer property to the district in order to receive an education. Since this is a public school, I would assume that there's some legal authority prohibiting them from charging tuition. It would be interesting to look at state law and see if there is a statute preventing them from conditioning enrollment on some sort of non-monetary compensation.

     

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    Danny, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Does this school by chance have a history of producing top academic students that go on to have successful college careers followed by successful careers in the post college world?

    I'm asking because I wonder if this is some attempt at trying claim ownership of someone's future success. Let's say a kid does a paper on cancer and then 20 years later develops a cure for cancer. Would this school then try to claim that since they owned the copyright/patent/trademark over that person's work years prior, then the school should have ownership of that cure.

    This isn't much different from colleges that use goverment funding (read: tax payer dollars) for research but then get to keep ownership of the results.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    Student Trolls

    Student to Teacher:
    Ms Jones, if I do my homework it is protected by copyright and I cannot allow it to be seen without a "grading" fee.

    On the other hand, if I'm assured an A grade prior to completion of my homework then I may waive that fee...

     

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      Richard (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

      Re: Student Trolls

      You have a serious point.

      Unfortunately the school is between a rock and a hard place here because of the stupidity of copyright law. You see if they don't own the copyright then all kinds of things that schools routinely do become illegal.

      This would include making photcopies, displaying work in public etc.

      Most sensible places simply require a non-exclusive licence that allows them to do the necessary things - but the whole ridiculous thing is just another example of the sstupidity of copyright law.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:41pm

        Re: Re: Student Trolls

        A school should not be making photocopies of a student work without permission. 99% of the time, permission would be given if asked, anyway.

        If a student objects to a work being hung on a wall, they should notify the teacher and it should not be displayed.

        No license is needed to grade a paper. If somehow a teacher really really needed to do something with a work to do their job as a teacher, that would almost certainly be covered by fair use. The educational purpose and the noncommercial nature of the work would be so heavily in favor of fair use that it would be a slam dunk unless the teacher was doing something they obviously shouldn't be doing, like selling compilations of student essays without permission.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Re: Student Trolls

        What nonsense. Fair enough copyright law in the UK isn't exactly like the US, but it's still pretty shitty. Even so I haven't heard of a single school that requires a copyright waiver and the schools here still miraculously manage to function perfectly well.

        I suspect this is the case for the vast majority of non-stupid schools in the US.

        So excusing this idiotic behaviour as a necessary evil is just lazy reasoning on your part.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Unenforceable

    The proposed policy reads like this:

    "Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials"

    "Further, works created during school/work hours, with the use of school system materials, and within the scope of an employee’s position or student’s classroom work assignment(s) are the properties of the Board of Education."

    One little problem. You don't get copyright just by saying you get copyright. They might as well make a policy that any money in a student's pockets belongs to the school board. If they tried to enforce this on a student, they'd lose badly in court.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

      Re: Unenforceable

      Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials


      I have seen this language in a number of work-related contracts over the years, and each time I've objected to it. Each time it was removed.

      I wouldn't agree to these terms for employment, period. I certainly wouldn't agree to them for attending school.

       

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        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re: Unenforceable

        Student writes Pulitzer Prize worthy book report.
        Student files with copyright office.
        Student turns homework in.
        School recognizes brilliance of work (skeptical about this part).
        School claims copyright under this ruling.
        School widely broadcasts the work, intimating their quality of education.
        Student sues School for infringement + gajillion mega bucks.
        School goes broke, rest of students go without education.
        Student retires as a junior in high school.
        Student winds up in jail after doing hard core video gaming for ten years and....

         

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Ownership has limitations.

    All I can say is WOW.

    The words we write are owned by the organization we write them during any type of association? But yet the property (i.e. land, house, invention) we "own" is only ours by the grant of ownership (i.e. patent) provided by the government.

    This makes zero sense.

    Wow. The words we have uttered are at only the most basic (i.e. word order) creative works. Yes if someone would like to use the words in the exact placement that your did and you were the first to every say/write those words you should get at the bare minimum a nod. But what is the worth of that?

    The worth is in the idea behind the words. If I tell you that "Life is a sum of ideas and your effort to execute those ideas to fruition" I think that is creative but not worth much. Why? Because it took little effort to create.

    But if I took the time to explain what the effort might be and then give you step by step instructions then that would be worth a lot more.

    Copyright as it stands assumes a value that is not verifiable or truly substantiated.

    So lets work towards a true value.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    What students produce

    Wow! I can't wait for when the students do sexting and thereby producing child porn. Now the school board owns CP. At least the authorities will know who to blame, the copyright holder.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:11am

    If all government works are in the public domain, then it seems like under this line of reasoning, there is no copyright on student work, because it too is automatically in the public domain.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 5:02pm

      Re:

      If all government works are in the public domain, then it seems like under this line of reasoning, there is no copyright on student work, because it too is automatically in the public domain.

      Only works produced by *employees* of the federal government are free from copyright under the law. Students are not employees of the federal government.

       

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    btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    Nonsense

    This is simply unenforceable by the school. The school district is required by law to provide an education for the kids. What are they going to do if the kids/parents refuse to sign the release? They can't suspend the kids over it; they can't condition childrens' education on forcing them to sign over rights to their proprerty to the government.

    This is no different than if the school had sent a note home with the kids saying that parents are now required to sign over title to their car to the school and if they don't their kid will be kicked out of school. That wouldn't fly for one second and neither will this.

    > If a student creates something, it is
    > covered by copyright, though most people
    > never really consider or care about that.

    Sure, if it's something like a math assignment. No one will ever use a set of algebra problems for anything other than turning it in the next day and getting a grade. But something like student-written a poem or a short story for a literature class? Yes, those have independent value beyond their worth as a class assignment. One can easily see a scenario where a talented kid writes a short story for class and could also enter it into a writing competition outside the school where the story will have commercial value. And one can also see how the school could then step in and claim whatever prize money or publishing fee results because they own the copyright. It's crap and they'll be lucky to survive summary judgment from the first person who sues them over it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Good luck making this work

    Since nearly all of the students required to do this are minors, their parents would have to sign the copyright assignment contract for it to be valid. I'm going to guess that somewhere in that county there's a lawyer who is going to fight it.

    The obvious counter would be to offer to sign a license for the school system to use the work under a specific set of terms and conditions. I don't think the school system would be happy with the terms and conditions I would offer them. There would be a penalty clause for violation of the contract that would include termination with cause of the employee who violated the license. Commercial use would be prohibited. If the contract was violated through commercial use, payment would be due immediately to the student at several times the total revenue generated even if the individual student's work was only a part of a larger compilation. Publication would be prohibited as well. It wouldn't be pretty.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Yup, it's illegal

    Copyright law explicitly says they can't do this to the students.

    "(e) Involuntary Transfer.— When an individual author’s ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, has not previously been transferred voluntarily by that individual author, no action by any governmental body or other official or organization purporting to seize, expropriate, transfer, or exercise rights of ownership with respect to the copyright, or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, shall be given effect under this title, except as provided under title 11."

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/201

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:14pm

      Re: Yup, it's illegal

      I don't think that applies. Technically, if you sign the document transferring copyright, it's a voluntary transfer. I think what this clause is talking about is that nobody can just unilaterally claim copyright of your work without your agreement.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re: Yup, it's illegal

        Nowhere in this policy do I see that students will be made to sign anything. They didn't bother to think things through that far.

        School is mandatory. It is not a "voluntary transfer" if you are given the choice of signing or being arrested for truancy. And a student would not legally be able to sign a contract anyway.

         

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          btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: Yup, it's illegal

          > And a student would not legally be able to
          > sign a contract anyway.

          Why doesn't everyone keep saying this? It's not true at all.
          Contracts signed by minors are perfectly legal, they're just voidable at the discretion of the minor or his/her parents.

          Bottom line, it's not financially smart to contract with a minor, but there's nothing that prohibits it or makes the contract de facto illegal.

           

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          John Fenderson (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 3:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Yup, it's illegal

          School is mandatory, but (where I live anyway), most of the things parents are asked to sign on enrollment are not actually required as a prerequisite for the enrollment itself. With copyright transfer, if nothing is signed, no transfer has happened. And refusing to sign it would not preclude the student from attending the school.

           

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    Anonymous, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    And here's the loophole

    “Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials,” the policy reads. “Further, works created during school/work hours, with the use of school system materials, and within the scope of an employee’s position or student’s classroom work assignment(s) are the properties of the Board of Education.”

    If I were a student in the district, every piece of homework I turned in would come with a copyright notice and a license agreement. The following notice would be there:

    "This work was created outside of school hours and therefor is not subject to the Prince George’s County Public Schools copyright assignment policy."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 11:49am

      Re: And here's the loophole

      That's no loophole. Read the first part of the policy again.

      "Works created by employees and/or students specifically for use by the Prince George’s County Public Schools or a specific school or department within PGCPS, are properties of the Board of Education even if created on the employee’s or student’s time and with the use of their materials."

      Instead, just use the part of copyright law that prohibits the government from involuntarily taking your work.

       

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    B's Opinion Only (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    This will get more interesting when some of the parents send the forms back after changing the terms to a Creative Commons or Copyleft license.

     

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    AnonCow, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 12:56pm

    Since the Federal government cannot copyright its work, is it possible that a state or local government agency that derives a significant portion of its funding from the Federal government could also be bound by the same provisions?

     

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      btr1701 (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:01pm

      Re:

      > Since the Federal government cannot
      > copyright its work, is it possible that
      > a state or local government agency that
      > derives a significant portion of its
      > funding from the Federal government could
      > also be bound by the same provisions?

      No.

       

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    Viln (profile), Feb 4th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Grounds for challenging a grade of B- on my English essay:

    Mrs. Johnson,
    I'm aware the essay I turned in for this assignment was substandard, but current copyright ownership issues make it impossible for me to relinquish my best effort and still reserve the right to reuse or rework said essay professionally later in life. Though I cannot show you the genuine essay lest I disadvantage myself financially or creatively, please take my word for it that I completed the assignment with A+ quality and adjust my grade accordingly.

     

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    anonymouse, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 4:29pm

    Funny

    Maybe these schools should think twice about this, seriously, just think of what would have happeend if all the politicians in congress today had all their school works released by a school so they could make a profit, imagine Obamas work when he was 17 or 18 and possibly a bit rebellious making some crazy comment and that being used by the other side to embarrass him.
    If anything this will be stomped out very quickly when the politicians realise they will be directly impacted by this.

    I for one would not sign anything like this and if they forced me to by threatening to expel me then yes I could sign it, but it would be under duress and that copyright would not hold up in a court of law. Apart from anything kids cannot sign their rights away over any work they do, ever.

     

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    JacktheSpratt, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 7:04pm

    Copyrights In School

    For teachers in the system where something is developed with the help of the school and/or state resources, this is not such a bad thing, but should be part of a written contract. Civilian companies do this routinely to protect themselves when employees develop something unique on the 'companies time'. However, attempting to 'copyright a students thoughts, self developed projects, and whatever as belonging to the school system 'because thats where they learned these things', is a thing that I personally would simply tag as being incredibly overzealious and "Communistic" in nature, and should therefore be not allowed under any circumstances. However, if the school system or state actually paid the students to attend and use their facilities, it may then become another matter entirely! Jack

     

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    AC0ZS, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 8:12pm

    Never let school interfere with education...

    When I was about 13, I designed a device that used highly concentrated directional bursts of ionizing radiation inside a Faraday cage to separate specific electrons out of molecules and therefore break chemical bonds. I intended to use it to separate carbon from oxygen and eliminate CO2 from the atmosphere - a solution to what is considered to be a major world problem. Instead, the Board of Education decided that I had used school resources to come up with my design, and they took it from me and put it in the public domain, making it ineligible for patenting. No profit can come from it, and so no corporation will give me a grant to build it.

    When you wonder why we have so many energy and technological crises and no one is doing anything about it, this is why.

     

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    cherrry (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:13pm

    How is it that someone that isn't the author is given complete ownership? Isn't that what copyright law is, the owner is the person that is the original creator, put in a tangible form, therefore, the author is the true owner... and so is the student...really.

     

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    bahar zaman, Feb 16th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Broadcasting

    Create an Office: Designate an area of your home to be your office space. This should be away from any household distractions. Having a desk near the television would be an example. Getting into a soap opera will not bring money into the home. A quiet section of the home is recommended, if at all possible. If you can hear what is going on with others in the home then you might get tempted to join them or feel the need to handle a problem. Treat this job as any other and you can join in when you get back from work.

     

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