Monday, November 16, 2009

Do (public school) teachers have a right to sell their own lesson plans?

Do teachers (especially as employees of public school systems) own their own intellectual property rights to lesson plans that they develop?

That question occurs in a front pages story in the New York Times Sunday November 15, by Winnie Hu, “Selling lesson plans online, teachers raise cash and questions”, link here.

Is a set of course notes, quizzes and homework assignments on Macbeth a “derivative work”?

More importantly, do teachers have a right to sell their own work when developed on an employer’s dime, or should the school district get the bounty? I suppose that when teachers do this, they are setting some sort of example for kids with respect to honoring copyright law and the employment relationship.

I can imagine that a geometry teacher could make a lesson plan based on the dimensions of major league baseball stadiums, and come up with something original enough to sell well. Or a physics teacher could do something like this by making up problems about the trajectory of a batted baseball or passed pigskin (and make fun of the Nationals and Redskins). Sports statistics make a great source of math test problems or lessons. I have my own math test here April 2009.

Creativity in making tests is less welcome today, as so many tests are standardized. But people are employed (especially as contractors) to write multiple choice test questions for the ETS, for state SOL’s, or even private certification companies like Brainbench.

Attribution link for picture of outfield of New York Mets new Citi Field in Queens NYC. It really doesn’t look like Ebbets Field to me. I’d love to see a Polo Grounds rebuilt.

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