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Who owns my lessons plans?

Q: Can I be required to provide lesson plans for a collection of instructional materials that my school system is developing? I know I am required to prepare lesson plans, but why should the system get to make money by publishing my work to sell to other teachers?

A: You write the lesson plans, but rights to the plans probably belong to the school board employing you. Under a rule known as "work made for hire," your employer owns the copyright to materials you are required to produce in the scope of your employment.

If you were an independent contractor you could copyright and control your work. But a teacher is not like a plumber who brings the tools and fixes the pipes without direction or supervision from the building-owner, or like a comedian who tells jokes at a night club. You function as an independent contractor if you provide tutoring services outside school hours. In the classroom you are a school board employee.

Your employer supplies you with materials, and directs the methods and means for completing your work. So your employer owns the rights to that work. (Don't forget the advantages to being an employee including benefits such as health insurance and a retirement system.)

Your teaching contract and school board policies incorporated into your contract may spell out your rights to teaching materials you create. Some of your activities, like courses or professional meetings, may not be within the scope of your employment, allowing you to keep control of work produced for those activities. Or your school board may encourage creativity by allowing teachers to reproduce or distribute the teaching materials you create. Consult your local UniServ Director for more information about school board policies.


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