Distance ed and virtual worlds…(9751 weekly response #4)

26 Sep

…good thing there’s no copyright on sharing secrets!

A few weeks ago, I subscribed to the Information Literacy Instruction Discussion List (ILI-L); wow! that is one busy group of librarians! Now that I’ve finally caught up on the many email discussion threads that have come my way, I have to say that I’m impressed with the amount of conversation, advice (requested and given), and sharing of resources and ideas that goes on; I’m going to have to find a better way to organize my bookmarks because I keep simply adding to my list based on the recommendations of unseen but generous colleagues!

Today I was reading a response to a request for copyright/open access information and ended up at an American Libraries article entitled “Copyright for Librarians and Teachers, in a Nutshell: Who Controls Uses of Your on-the-job Writing?

Before I go any further, let me preface this with the fact that I know the article is American. Let me also say, that I don’t know if the situation is similar here in Canada; I don’t seem to remember anyone talking about it–in library school or teacher’s college, so maybe it’s all moot.

I found this particular quote interesting:

“As a school librarian or teacher, you create works all the time—lesson plans, finding tools, and so on—fairly independently, without specific conditions established by the school. If you are developing a syllabus, the school generally does not specify what to write or how long or detailed the syllabus should be, as would be the case in a “work for hire” situation (see box at the end). Nonetheless, you are being paid by the school to do a particular job, so the rights for materials you create are held by the school.”

Now, I don’t know about you but when I was teaching full-time, I (no-word-of-a-lie) was working about 70 hour weeks. I recognize part of that was simply being a new teacher–after all, everything takes longer. You’ve to develop your own library (literally and figuratively) of ready resources, fit for any occasion. (I also admit part of it was due to being–like many teachers, and no doubt librarians– “a type B+ personality; because no one wants to admit to being an ‘A’, a term coined by a dear colleague of mine.)

But I digress–probably another reason I was working 70 hours weeks…

But those 70 hours weeks are the issue: where does the employer time (and subsequent work done) end and the employee time begin. Yes, I was paid for my work–which included the creation of lesson plans, resources, blackline masters, etc–but I also worked a lot at home and well past the regular work week (in terms of hours). That’s to say nothing of all the research I did as well. I mean, I consider those my resources–and I still have them filling a small room in my house. Certainly, I let any other teacher photocopy what was wanted but to be honest, nothing was ever said by any administration that i should leave my materials. So, when I read:

“The employer holds the copyright when you create the works on the job, using school resources and technology, and receive a regular paycheck with Social Security and insurance deductions”

I think “yikes!”; there but for the grace of god, go I.

But then, teachers–like librarians, as is demonstrated by the ILI-L–do tend to be a collegial bunch. My first teaching partner, an absolutely amazing teacher and mentor to me, would often drop stuff off on my desk with a short note: “I put this together for the language arts lesson–feel free to use it if you want!” And so that’s how I assumed things went…so I learned to do the same. At different schools, in different provinces, in different boards. So, technically that means I’ve been breaching copyright?!


However, I did feel validated later on when the article added:

“[f]or the most part, members of an educational community tend to have a more open view about sharing works with colleagues because of their collective commitment to advance learning. In addition, unlike other creators, we do not make our living selling the works we create on the job.”

So, I don’t know whether to look into this further in the Canadian context so that I know for sure (forewarned is forearmed) or continue merrily along my way, happily creating and sharing resources (ignorance is bliss)…

Any thoughts?

Russel, C. (2012, July 2). Copyright for librarians and teachers, in a nutshell: Who controls uses of your on-the-job writing? Retrieved from

1 Comment

Posted by on September 26, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


One response to “Distance ed and virtual worlds…(9751 weekly response #4)

  1. Genny

    October 3, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Kelly,
    An interesting issue. I think this will affect corporate librarians the most, especially if they work for US firms.

    When I started working for a multi-national company headquartered in the US, I had to sign away all intellectual property created on the job. I think the fine print said that the company owned anything I created off hours too (eg if I thought of something work-related while not at work, it was theirs). I was a bit disturbed by this, but I had to sign it as a condition of employment. As I was unemployed at the time, what choice did I have?

    Oh, and when I left, the company I was given the intellectual property agreement as a reminder. HR covered its bases!


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