A free-write on the (lack of) intellectual property
Perhaps you know this, but in most jobs…or at least most of the jobs I’ve had, anything you create for that job is not your own intellectual property. Instead, your creative brainchild is the property of the company you work for. Depending on the rules or the fine print of a contract, that could mean that anything you created using company internet — or even a company computer — is not actually yours.
Since all the newspapers tell us that we are in the middle of a “Great Resignation” I thought it may be appropriate to discuss this a little bit.
I’m a teacher. Not only that, I’m a teacher that was hired as the first history teacher in a brand new Jr. High. Administration gave me full creative freedom. What this means is that I’ve created every stitch of Jr. High history curriculum. Now that the school has expanded, my curriculum is our curriculum. I pull extensively from the American Yawp, but I’ve also created power points and activities using unique knowledge that only I have. I’ve won awards for this curriculum and, suffice it to say, it’s been a boon for my school. It is, in essence, intellectual property.
However, it’s not technically my own. I didn’t get a stipend, or even a raise from doing this, I just…had to do it because that was the option. If I were to quit, *technically* my school could take all of what I created and leave me with access to nothing.
Now, you may say to yourself, surely they wouldn’t do that? Surely they would allow you to take curriculum that you created with you? Or, at least keep the curriculum and give you access to it.
I like to think that. And perhaps they would, however I’ve known teachers who, upon giving their notice, were locked out of all school files. Not at my school, but at others. Since I may move states this Summer, I’ve started to think about how I can protect myself, and all the work that I’ve done personally. Much of which was done outside of contract hours, on my personal computer.
As the article I linked to above explains, a lot of this “Great Resignation” is much more about “switching”, or rather, going somewhere that pays you more money and where you are more valued.
I know that a lot of teachers are contemplating their options right now. So many of us are unhappy in our circumstances and we are looking to go somewhere that will treat us better, or have better amenities.
If this is you, I would take care to save the things you have created. It is very likely that many teaching jobs won’t care…or even know…if you take curriculum with you. However, it is possible that if you plan on giving in your notice, you’ll lose everything you’ve done.
Sure, you can probably re-create it to some extent. But, that’s a lot of time and energy. So, save it. Make sure you have access to it. Make sure that the things you’ve done you can keep to some extent.
And, if you’re not sure of the policies in your school or job…ASK. Information is power, so it’s often obfuscated. Be sure to know your rights and take steps to protect yourself.