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Ask Slashdot: Which License For School Products? 56

Reader TheodoreQSwiss breaks onto the page with this question: "The independent school where I serve as Dir. of Technology is in the middle of reworking their employee handbooks and would like to include a section on ownership of the intellectual property produced by employees of the school while doing work for the school. Ideally, both the school and the creator(s) would be able to retain rights to the use of the product. Do you have any recommendations on licenses that would support both parties involved?"
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Ask Slashdot: Which License For School Products?

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  • the WTFPL license. the only license anybody ever needs
  • Look into the Creative Commons system.

    • Minor edit. That should read: "Look into the Creative Commons system []."

      You'll retain the rights to your work, but make it available for others to use with whatever restrictions (or lack of) you so desire. If you want full control, they offer more traditional copyrights as well. The best part is that the licenses were developed by professional lawyers and they provide forms to craft the appropriate legalese for you to protect your work.

      I don't know how it works, but I also recommend registering your work with []

      • Creative Commons *is* a copyright license.

        This is how you copyright a work: write it. Done!

        Now no one can distribute it without your permission (except as allowed by fair use). You can give them permission to use it in certain ways using a new or pre-existing license, like CC (or GPL). There is no "conflict" between copyright and creative commons; quite the contrary, CC depends on (C). The GPL does too, as RMS has pointed out more than a few times.

        • by yuna49 ( 905461 )

          Registration with the Copyright Office is not required to copyright a creative work in the United States. Simply adding the usual "Copyright, 2011, Jennifer Author" is all that is needed (17 USC 401). If, however, you wish to bring suit for infringement, you are not entitled to statutory damages or attorneys' fees unless the work is registered (see 17 USC 412 []). Registered works must be deposited with the Library of Congress which encourages authors to share their works through this enormous public archive

          • Actually, it looks like notice may be useful but not be required. (Though consult an atty. if this matters to you, obviously).

            401. Notice of copyright: Visually perceptible copies2 ...

            (d) Evidentiary Weight of Notice. — If a notice of copyright in the form and position specified by this section appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant's interposition of a defense based on innocen

      • Sorry... There seems to be some confusion from my poorly-worded post. I know that CCing your work copyrights it, but registering with the Library of Congress implements a traditional copyright, without the flexibility of a CC license... those are two conflicting licenses and the conflict has not been resolved in the courts yet.
  • Intellectual Property, like Cloud Computing, is a nebulous term. It covers at least three distinct areas: trademark law, copyright law, and patent law.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Saturday October 08, 2011 @11:27AM (#37648038)

    ask a attorney or the school legal contact.

    • Attourney's cool useful and all that. However, you probably want to have a vision of what you want to achieve. The right attourney will then be able to help you do it.

      Schools should be about developing and spreading open knowledge. Things like the CC-BY-SA and AGPLv3 licenses are probably very suitable for this. However, in some areas you will find that you want to collaborate with others. You will want flexibility to change from the default when required.

      On the other hand, look at the story of NCS

  • When an employee makes a discovery/work/patent/etc in their capacity as an employee, usually the employer own that IP.

    • by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Saturday October 08, 2011 @11:41AM (#37648124) Homepage

      And what of the tax-payers who funded it?

      If you created it while on the clock for the public, the public should own it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "independent school" -- maybe that means non-public...?

      • this comes up all the time. go look at any university's IP disclaimers. If you invented it in your role as an employee, they own it. It doesn't matter who funds the school - the school funds you.

        • That's not true, that's only true if you create the materials on their time, otherwise you own it, not the school. Unless the school is giving the OP time off in which to create the materials or is paying overtime, the proper owner of the materials would be the employee. Otherwise it's a pretty blatant violation of the FLSA.

          In this case, it sounds like the school is paying for the materials to be developed and as such it's going to be work for hire unless both parties agree to something else.

          • That's not true, that's only true if you create the materials on their time, otherwise you own it, not the school. Unless the school is giving the OP time off in which to create the materials or is paying overtime, the proper owner of the materials would be the employee.

            Neither university teachers nor K-12 teachers are factory workers who punch a clock. They are professionals who basically manage themselves and set a lot of their own work hours. This makes "on their time" a vague concept, and that's why I believe no schools actually use that as a criterion. Typically the teacher owns what the teacher writes, and the school owns any patents.

        • this comes up all the time. go look at any university's IP disclaimers. If you invented it in your role as an employee, they own it. It doesn't matter who funds the school - the school funds you.

          Sloppy analogy. Patents are not the most common case of IP at the K-12 level, and at the university level there are other types of IP that are *not* owned by the school. For example, the school does not own the textbook that a professor writes.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The precedent is very different between, say, a K-5 elementary school and a research university. Rules are different in different countries.

    Employee handbooks are almost never contracts, by the way. You need an explicit written agreement between employer and employee.

    Assuming you mean K-12 school in the US... Is there a union contract? that might be relevant.

    In general, works produced "in the course of your employment" are "works for hire" and belong to the employer, however, there are tricky aspects. F

  • If you think big money can be made for the school and the creators by selling copies of this work (which is often NOT the case), then my recommendation would be to have the school be the copyright owner (it will be by default given that its employees are doing a work-for-hire), that the school enters with the employees a contract for sharing the royalties (meaning that e.g. if the school sells the rights for printing a book, it will give a certain fraction of the royalties to the author), and that the schoo
  • by AmElder ( 1385909 ) on Saturday October 08, 2011 @12:00PM (#37648222) Homepage

    There's a legal question here and an administrative one. Either way, this isn't a decision to be made and announced through the employee handbook. It's great though how you set out just to write a bit of documentation and you end up in a legal a philosophical minefield.

    The legal question is who has the right of ownership over intellectual property, such as lesson plans, that teachers produce or use on the job. I imagine the precedents vary by your jurisdiction. Your school should look it up. The way you phrase the question, it sounds as if there aren't any explicit provisions in the teacher contracts that establish who owns what. Maybe it's time for the school to include a clause in the contract that makes the expectations and the legal situation clear.

    But really the more important issue is that, again from the way you phrase your question, it sounds as if the school administration seems to expect to dictate terms of intellectual property ownership to its teachers. Regardless of whether they have the legal right to do that, it's just plain bad policy, a great way to pick an unnecessary fight. The administration should do what you're doing now, do some research and decide on a good model for a policy. Then they should bring the issue up at a faculty meeting, ask faculty what they want, give them a chance to go away and read about it, and then come back with their own proposal. Ideally, if you've got good administrators (sounds like they/you have good will, at least) who can negotiate well with faculty based on interests and not positions, then everyone leaves the room happy.

    The wrong way to do it is for you, the Director of Technology, to make the decision, present it to the rest of the administration who accept it by default because they don't have any better ideas, and let the faculty know who owns their lesson plans by putting a handbook in their mailboxes at the start of the next term. The value of the intellectual property is either too small to be worth alienating employees or too valuable to approach sloppily.

    The usual disclaimers: I'm not a lawyer or a teacher.

    • ask faculty what they want

      Yes -- definitely.

      Now for my personal opinion: the UK government are taking steps to legalise "format shifting" of sound recordings. Yes, ripping your own CDs to MP3 is still technically illegal. Relevance? The starting point for all legal decisions has to start with expected behaviour -- the new law formalises what is already "normal" behaviour.

      We expect teachers to store all their worksheets on their laptops, and we expect them to use them when they move on to the next job. Disallowing this will not s

      • Good points! I agree with everything you wrote.

        Unfortunately, in the USA (haven't found info on the UK), the law as it stands makes the default situation exactly the opposite: the school owns the copyright on most lesson plans and other IP, as other people have described in other replies. It's crazy.

        Also, I don't think anyone has suggested a good existing licensing solution that does what you're describing. A shame. Maybe the guy who posted the question will write a good license, with the school's legal

  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Saturday October 08, 2011 @12:33PM (#37648376) Homepage Journal

    If students sign a contract with the school to say that both parties assign full rights to one another in works that they create, then it doesn't matter what copyright law says. Contract trumps copyright. That's how the music industry works, for one thing.

  • "While doing work for the school" needs to be better defined. Teachers "do work for the school" at home as well as on campus. They are professionals, and the boundary between what they are required to do and what they do because they want to is not always clear. If a teacher writes a textbook, this is not "work for the school." If a teacher writes a lesson plan, it probably is "work for the school." There is no clear boundary between these two things.

    "Ideally, both the school and the creator(s) would be abl

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Saturday October 08, 2011 @02:23PM (#37649034)

    Not only does the school AND the creators retain the rights to use the product, but so would anybody else. Other schools can then benefit and you can benefit from their input.
    As an added bonus, nobody will be able to take away your rights to use it.

    Unless your core business is selling software (not software related business) it should be the only option.

  • I was working as a grad student (back in the day) for a Computer Science department for a major University. During that time, some friends and I created a couple of massively multiplayer web browser games ... and we made quite a bit of money doing it. We had formed our own company, but we did (initially) do a lot of the work on campus ... either in public computer labs or in dorm rooms. We eventually bought our own headquarters, and completed our first game (and created all of our second game) there. We did
  • Hi all - thanks for your responses. I'm the OP, and I wanted to add a bit for clarification:

    Currently, we have no statements in any documents regarding the creation or ownership of IP, be it lesson plans, study books, whatever. This is our first foray into it and instead of just copy-pasting someone else's boilerplate, I thought it would be a great chance to do it correctly from the get go. I know we could just go look up what others are doing, but we don't want to do that.

    By "doing work for the schoo
    • If none of the people involved have an ambition to make extra money, just releasing the IP under some Creative Commons license would do and make the materials available to other schools and students too.

      If there is no consensus to do that, I personally feel that the teacher has the stronger claim. But even so, putting an automatic license for the school into the work contract seems only fair and would not hurt the teacher's interests much. After all, the worst case for the teacher would be losing sales to o

    • By "doing work for the school," I mean, mainly, IP created during the normal work as faculty; i.e. curriculum/lesson plans, tests, handouts, study guides, even the rare times when a teacher basically makes their own textbook via years and years of teaching experience. A teacher that creates this kind of work, which most all do de facto, wouldn't have been hired by the school to create the IP, but to teach; the IP just follows as a means to do the teaching. Now we're concerned with what happens when, in this kind of situation, a teacher leaves the school and wants to take their work's products with them. It's true that the school was paying the for teacher to create the IP in a round-about kind of way, but it was also benefiting from the production of it while the teacher was creating and using it.

      Not only that, but the school is also directly benefiting from IP the teacher brought with them from previous jobs. If you were to claim complete ownership over materials, that would be a direct disincentive to the staff using their earlier IP, which would mean that the school would miss out.

      There's a definite quid pro quo here, so I would strongly recommend letting teachers keep their copyright -- all the school really needs is a license to duplicate the material later.

  • As others have said, I'd talk to a lawyer instead of slashdot. That said, what we do where I work (CIO/Director of Technology at a university) is this: for students, if they wrote the code while a student employee, we own it. If they write it as part of a class, they own it. Effectively, this gets to "who paid for the time to write the program."

    For faculty, it's different. Generally, faculty get to own what they write, since it usually falls under their research, which both the university and the faculty wa

    • by astar ( 203020 )

      Consider, back in the day

      guy wants to go write some code on his own to resell.. He is a salaried programmer. Boss want to help out. Loans him a mini to take home and work on his own time.

      Time passes and the greatest thing since sliced bread is created. O

      oops, the employer owns it

  • If the school receives ANY public funding what so ever, all works produced by it should be public domain.

    GPL is not a proper license to use as you're intentionally fucking over multiple people to push an agenda that may not be shared by everyone contributing funding. You more or less can't use anything that takes ANY rights away from others and continue to be fair to the tax payers.
    Anything other than that really isn't fair to anyone who contributed to the public funds given to the school. BSD is closer,

  • The problem itself is simple. One party owns the copyright in the work and the other party gets an unrestricted, irrevocable (notice I said irrevocable and not "perpetual" - although long, copyright duration is not perpetual), non-exclusive license, including the right to sublicense and make derivative works to the work without the obligation to account to the other party. You can battle about which party owns and which party is licensed but with a license this broad, it is almost the same. However, 35 y

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.