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!