Utah and Creative Commons

Last year I began having conversations with Utah public school educators about sharing their educational materials as open educational resources. The conversation generally went like this:

Me: Would you be willing to share the lesson plans and other materials you create with others for them to reuse?

Teacher: Sure!

Me: Great! The best way to do that is by applying this Creative Commons license to your work.

Teacher: A copyright license?

Me: Right. So that others know for certain that they’re allowed to reuse, revise, and redistribute your work.

Teacher: I don’t think I can make copyright assignments. I’m happy to share informally, but when it comes to formal sharing, I don’t know who actually holds the copyright in the materials I create for use in my class. Sorry.

After hearing this a few times I dug into the Utah Administrative Rules to answer the question of who owns the work teachers produce for their own use in their own classrooms. The answer? The issue was not addressed anywhere in the UAR. A call to the State Superintendent’s office and some research by their staff confirmed that there was no explicit statement about who owned the teachers’ work. Consequently, no one knew who could share what with whom.

So, last summer I testified at a meeting of the Interim Education Committee and had a longer conversation with our State Superintendent and one of his staff asking for a new Administrative Rule, explicitly stating that teachers can in fact share their work under open licenses. State Superintendent Larry Shumway then grabbed a hold of the idea and worked on making it happen.

The result is the shiny new Rule R277-111: Sharing of Curriculum Materials by Public School Educators, which includes the following language:

The purpose of this rule is to provide information and assurance to public school educators about sharing materials created or developed by educators primarily for use in their own classes or assignments. The intent of this rule is to allow or encourage educators to use valuable time and resources to improve instruction and instructional practices with assistance from appropriate materials developed by other educators….

Utah educators may share materials under a Creative Commons License and shall be personally responsible for understanding and satisfying the requirements of a Creative Commons License…

The presumption of this rule is that materials may be shared. The presumption is that Utah educators need not seek permission from their employers to share personally-developed materials.

I haven’t done an in-depth review of state policies, but I believe that Utah is one of the first (if not the very first) to formally adopt language (a) saying that teachers are allowed or encouraged to share their educational materials or (b) actually mentioning Creative Commons by name. Many thanks to Superintendent Shumway and his staff for making this happen!

9 thoughts on “Utah and Creative Commons”

  1. Outstanding, David. This is good news for teachers and the Open movement generally. Teachers deal with enough in the way of ambiguity that it’s got to be great for those that are interested in sharing lesson plans to have one less worry on their plates.

  2. I agree, way to go Utah!

    However, there are some concerns that may or may not be addressed.
    – If a teacher needs the permission of the state to apply a CC license to lessons plans created by the teacher, then is it settled that the intellectual property is owned by the state? How does this affect sites like http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ where teachers are posting and selling their lesson materials?
    – If this rule means that the intellectual property is owned by the State yet shareable under creative commons — does it also mean that a teacher in the state who chooses to sell a lesson plan on a site like teacherspayteachers should be prohibited from doing so?
    – What happens if an individual from outside the state starts posting CC licensed lesson materials on sites like teacherspayteachers — which party is injured: the state, the teacher, the school board, all? Who’s responsibility is it to enforce the CC license?

    I agree that lesson plans created with public money as the result of employment should be freely licensed — but unlike the assertion in the proposed rule by Mr. Shumway “I have reviewed this rule and I see no fiscal impact on businesses” — there are very likely impacts due to competition with private businesses like teacherspayteachers or licensing enforcement costs until more jurisdictions get involved (essentially flooding the marketplace with free high quality content making ‘theft’ unprofitable.)

  3. So have you re-approached the Utah teacher and told her about this? If so, what action has she taken on sharing her materials?

  4. I’d assume that if no contract or law or statute existed that said anything about the copyrights being transferred from teachers to their employers, then the rights would not move. And teachers could do with their works as they wished. At least that’s the state of affairs in most of Europe: unless your job contract specifies that rights belong to your employer, you own them.

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