Ellicott City, MD asked in Copyright, Education Law and Intellectual Property for Maryland

Q: I have a question which involves the rights to intellectual property as teacher in a private grade school.

I was a high school teacher and created about 50 powerpoint lessons in the school's drive. The school locked me out and will not share my powerpoint lessons. I am of course very upset over this. I spent days on one powerpoint alone. The school would not suffer any harm by sharing my lessons with me. What can I do? It is course material I created for work and was paid to do so. However, I never signed any contract stating I give up my rights to my lessons.

2 Lawyer Answers
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
Answered
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: You may find this article informative on the subject, although it does not address any special statutory or other law in Maryland that may vary from the basic principal that a work made in the course and within the scope of employment generally belongs to the employer:

https://digitalcommons.law.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1110&context=elj

You may also wish to contact your local teacher's union to inquire about the terms and provisions of any collective bargaining agreements that might reserve to the teachers certain rights to course materials and innovations created by them.

Steve Charles Vondran
PREMIUM
Steve Charles Vondran
Answered
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • San Francisco, CA

A: This is general legal information only and not legal advice. Generally speaking, many teachers are surprised to learn that if they are a salaried employee, their lesson plans, creative works and writings (powerpoints in your case), may actual be the intellectual property of the school or the school districts - unless you have a contract that specifies otherwise. This is due to the "work-for-hire" doctrine. If I were a teacher or a professor that created a lot of copyrightable work, I would want to discuss this before entering into any agreements and note that all work created will become the intellectual property of the teacher, and this means they can privately monetize, and take it with them when they stop teaching, retire, etc. NEGOTIATE FOLKS! Attorney Steve®

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.