A recent post by Neil Winton highlights the issues of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) in digital resources created by teachers. Neil's post also prepares the ground for a debate on the opportunities digital resources offer teaching and learning, something I will cover in more detail in the following post. Although Neil's post referred primarily to QA of resources and their suitability for inclusion in glow, the subtext and comments discussed the 'ownership' of the resources, and the complexities around the issues of a teachers' own time and any monetary value.
Accepting the probability that such IPR clauses may be written into, (many), teacher contracts, and that legally, resources created by teachers are the property of their employer e.g. Local Authority (LA) or school, it now seems high time that all parties get together to openly discuss the IPR/employer issues in the context of Web 2.0 and user generated content in order to arrive at a workable solution.
It is highly improbable that the likes of; Flickr, You Tube, social networks and digital publishing tools were considered, or even around, when IPR clauses were written into teacher contracts. More likely, they were drawn up around a scenario of teachers writing textbooks or publishing collections of worksheets.
Ewan notes in the comments, teacher publishing is not yet mainstream, I suspect this will remain the case, certainly for writing books. As Ewan suggest those teachers might consider setting up a, (self employed), business to do this, or they could be up-front and negotiate an agreement with their employer. On the other hand Web 2.0 offers teachers, who would not normally consider writing a book, the opportunity to create and publish digital resources and indeed make themselves known and establish a presence within educational communities. Indeed many are already doing so. This point is particularly well illustrated by the excellent collaborative sideshow below, (one of many), from Tom Barrett, which demonstrates the possibilities and opportunities for teachers to become involved and why the old terms of reference are no longer applicable.
Collaborative Google doc Presentation resource created and developed Tom Barrett, contributed to by many under a Creative commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 3.0 License. If you would like to contribute to this resource, please contact Tom
This kind of resource does not need committee approval; applying a Creative Commons Non Commercial Share Alike license will prevent any employer claiming exclusive IPR; but they would be entitled to adapt, share and add their name to the credits and gain attribution. I believe this might be of greater value to them than the monetary value, if any, of the resource. Alternatively, they could choose to ban such content in schools or lessons, but that does not seem very wise, and I really cannot see many be willing to go down this route.
In conclusion I would argue teachers don't need to be too worried when creating digital resources. LAs are not really, (or if they are - should not be), in the business of acting as agents for resources, teacher developed or otherwise. Instead they should be encouraging teachers to participate in developing new resources, and realise they would benefit by association. Where LAs and official bodies might also offer support is in facilitating CPD and other initiatives that help teachers who wish to create and share materials, work together and avoid the pitfalls of using third party copyright materials in their resources.
I think it is unlikely LAs would be willing to pursue IPR claims on teacher generated materials through the courts, (it costs a lot of money, more than they would ever make be likely to recoup selling the resources), and such a move would certainly raise eyebrows amongst council tax payers.
So hopefully there will be a move towards official support and encouragement for teachers leading the way in developing learning materials. They certainly should not have to worry about some committee or legal dept.