School kids in Maryland could soon be taken to court if they choose to copy their homework or art projects for posterity. The Board of Education of Prince George’s County has come up with an ingenious proposal to copyright all work created by staff and students under its jurisdiction.
This basically means that the school system would own everything teachers and their students come up with, from a first-grader’s drawing to mobile apps created by university students. Although the US government has transformed into a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Content, the proposal is not going down well with parents and just about anyone else who came across it.
David Cahn, an educational activist who attends school board meetings believes there is something inherently wrong with the proposal. “There are better ways to do this than to take away a person’s rights,” he told the Washington Post.
Law professor David Rein said he had never heard of a similar policy enacted by a school board. He pointed out that most universities have sharing agreements for work created by professors and college students. Under the agreements, the university, professor and student all benefit from their projects.
“The way this policy is written, it essentially says if a student writes a paper, goes home and polishes it up and expands it, the school district can knock on the door and say, ‘We want a piece of that,’ ” Rein said. “I can’t imagine that.”
So, how did the school board come up with the idea in the first place? Enter Apple and its iPads for school program.
Board Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs and Vice Chair Carolyn M. Boston attended an Apple presentation and learned how teachers can use apps to create new curricula. The proposal was designed to ensure schools own teacher-developed curricula created on school property iPads.
However, board members apparently got a bit carried away, so they expanded the policy to cover all work submitted by staff and students. Jacobs then pulled an Instagram, insisting that it was never the board’s intention to declare ownership of students’ work and calling on legal counsels to “restructure the language” to reflect the district’s real goals instead.
Even when if they do, the school district would still retain copyright on everything developed by the faculty and what better way to mould young minds than to tell their teachers that they need not bother coming up with anything innovative, useful and potentially profitable.