Site Search:
 

Banner

Teacher Discussion Forums Forum Index Teacher Discussion Forums
"The Internet's Meeting Place for ESL/EFL Students and Teachers from Around the World!"
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Whose materials are they?

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Teacher Discussion Forums Forum Index -> Material Writing
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
teacherguy



Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 3:14 am    Post subject: Whose materials are they? Reply with quote

I have taught an English class at a small agricultural college in Japan for seven years. This year I decided not to return. When I began my only instructions were "Teach an English class" and no materials or curriculum were offered. I looked for, but could not find materials of a suitable topic (farming), level, and format so I ended up creating my own.

My question is, what is the general attitude toward materials created in such a situation?

I was hired to teach, not produce materials. Over the seven years I spent hundreds of hours of my own time creating and refining nearly everything that was used in the class. I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the results belong to me.

In general, when a teacher leaves a school, do they take their materials with them? I have them all in my own computer, of course, but the school archived most of them as well. If the school wishes to make them available to future teachers, are they obligated to make an arrangement with me?

I don't particularly care whether the school continues to use them or not. My only real concern is that by saying or doing nothing I might lose the right to use or publish them in the future.

Is there any established way of proceeding? Any comments or opinions would be appreciated.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you didn't sign a contract with a clause specifying that any materials you produced (i.e. had to and were expected to produce) become the property and copyright of your employer, who has more than amply recompensed you with the basic wage blah blah blah, then I believe that you retain the right of authorship and copyright over the materials. (I am not sure of the legality of these clauses, perhaps factors such as "royalties" would undermine them to some extent, but employers at least seem to like to think that this covers them against any future claims).

Your concern then in that case should not be whether the college moves to prevent you from using (how could they know, really?) or publishing (more likelihood of being discovered) the materials, but whether somebody at the college (Japanese personnel, or a future foreign teacher) appropriates the materials as their own and seeks to make a profit from them ahead of you (assuming that they are of an enviable standard already, which seems to be the case, given your enviasged plans for the materials).

You could try to openly (or not so openly) remove the archives from the school, but that could lead into precisely the sort of (legal) problems/grey areas that we all strive to avoid (and doubtless you don't want to appear a totally selfish and ungenerous person).

In an ideal world, of course, schools would employ and appropriately recompense dedicated materials writers beforehand (or at least buy a range of optimally useful/appropriate materials, on the advice of at least one informed and "frontline" teacher), but as we all know, they unfortunately do not.

My explicit experience of this has been confined to two companies, one a large and very fair foreign-managed EFL in Japan employment agency that had a clause similar to the one in my opening paragraph for general teachers, which was probably more for silencing those lazy teachers who might have objected to ever being asked to prepare anything by e.g. a Japanese team-teaching colleague (the company also advertises for dedicated FT lesson-plan writing postitions, which seem quite generously rewarded per plan completed); and a pretty useless/incompetent small Japanese-managed company that had no such clauses in its shoddily-written contract, which resulted in me working for an exploitative school where I was developing materials on pretty much a full-time basis in my own time for other teachers (and, admittedly, they for me, not that this reciprocity justifies the system at the school at all) after teaching full-time all day (plus whatever other extra-curricular activities and miscellaneous duties, of which there were many).
http://www.eslcafe.com/forums/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=11966#11966 (go down to about halfway through the post for "My story").

That *beep* school was of the opinion that teachers should keep and depart with their materials, but I rather got the impression that this was because the school didn't think much of any of the materials (and/or couldn't be bothered sifting through it all and collating/archiving it) than because of any pressing legal arguments or precedents. I made it quite clear to them that I had no objection to surrendering my "rights" to the materials, if they would only look at them seriously, assess their possible future utility/worth in recycling, and start helping future teachers who would also be expecting at least SOME ready-to-use, previously successful plans and activity materials.

And even if a school were not in such dire need of materials for present and future teachers, I would have no real objection to the majority of my materials being appropriated by the school because 1) I am a generally helpful guy 2) I don't live for money 3) Most of my ideas have been thought of somewhere before, even if to me they appear strikingly original and valuable and 4) even if I have something quite unique, it is not always certain that others will recognize or appreciate the value of it, so I can probably rest easy that I'll be the first to publish it (if there is actually much money to be made from publishing - I rather suspect that a teacher's main source of income will likely remain from immediate (hopefully satisfied!) students. In any case, if a legal battle did develop, I am sure that the fact that I and the other "writer" both once worked at the same school would work in my favour as much as his or hers...and doubtless I would have improved and continued to add various individual touches to any activity to make it unique enough in the eyes of the law to not be an infringement of copyright; then, there is the whole question of sequencing of materialS, the shape of Course A is often so different from Course B that simple allegations of plagiarism would soon fail - I mean, if dictionary publishers can't "prove" plagiarism then who can?!).
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, I've read your post again a few times, teacherguy, and even if it would be a sensible idea legally-speaking to try to get the school to enter into some sort of agreement with you regarding the proper and limited use of your materials, there is of course then the small problem of actually getting them to enter into the agreement! Which could, as I've said, lead to the school actually objecting to you taking or trying to take the archived materials if you feel they won't be protecting your rights.

Even if they are very obliging and give you every assurance, you cannot really ever be sure that somebody isn't going to like what they're seeing and using and try to take advantage of your materials themselves...and then the question is, whose responsibility is it (presuming you even become aware your copyright has been infringed) then to chase after these rip-off artists? Probably yours, and not the schools, ne...

Basically, the sort of questions you're asking are coming a bit late in the process...but of course, you didn't sit down for those hundeds of hours straight prior to doing any teaching with the sole intention or expectation of producing something as good and eminently copyrightable!

Personally, I would simply request that the school give you the archived material without ado, "just so you can check through it", then I would do a runner and not return it or give them a chance to copy it again. Remember, you are under no obligation (from what I can gather e.g. you didn't sign anything to the contrary) to help the school or the next teacher, and if the course you developed is as good and useful as you are making out, there may be money to be had from it (money that would certainly more than repay the hundreds of hours you've put into it). If you go in with detailed reasons, arguments and requests you will probably not get the result you want - simple surefire action to ensure that what YOU want is indeed what you get.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
teacherguy



Joined: 12 Mar 2005
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 10:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, thanks for the quick response.

Just a clarification. I don't consider the material to be either superior or publishable in its present form. Neither do I have any immediate plans to do anything with it. My question is whether a norm exists or not in the TESL/TEFL world that I would be able to point to in any discussions with the school.

My concern is whether by inaction I will lose any rights I might currently have, that someday down the road I might regret having given up. If that is not the case, I am happy to let the school continue using them.

As for contract, nothing was ever stated about materials.

Your Saitama experience sounded pretty awful. I wouldn't have lasted a month!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose the only norm is and always has been that teachers are expected to come up with at least some original supplementary materials beyond the published course and recipe books, geared specifically to the needs and interests of their students, and not be/seem/act too protective of those materials until such time at the teacher has "paid their dues", got their stuff organized better than anyone else might have up to that point, made contacts in the ELT publishing world and wangled a contract whereby a publisher (and their teams of lawyers) takes an interest in protecting their investment!

Until you're in that sort of priveleged position, whatever you're sitting on is purely provisional and an unknown quantity, and you could find yourself beaten to the dotted line by somebody who has purely by coincidence developed more or less the same thing as you have to fill whatever niche. But obviously it is only sensible to do as much as you can until that point to try to keep your intellectual property in only your hands and apparently solely your creation...which is kind of difficult when you are a working teacher, who needs to take "risks" in order to develop as a teacher(-*beep*-unpaid materials developer)...hmm, as an interim measure, maybe you could stamp "Copyright teacherguy 2004" or something all over your stuff? Very Happy Razz

Any (wannabe) lawyers here on Dave's? Laughing

Yeah the Saitama stint was pretty awful, but I did go on a bit in that link...then again, I've never heard of teachers having to write materials explicitly for others to use whilst teaching full-time, so I don't think I was too much of a whinger to object to it in principle...I could tell something was fishy and stank real bad when my company got me to sign what was more or less a waiver to suing somebody's ass ('I, fluffyhamster, hereby agree to take voluntary retirement from this wonderful and not-at-all sh*te job'), as a precondition to paying me pronto what I was owed... Confused
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 2993
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2005 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, it is an interesting question, though, isn't it (leaving aside the legal technicalities, whatever they may be, and looking instead at the "ethical" aspects of the matter): if an employer has given you the "opportunity" to teach and in doing so indirectly develop an entire course (which you had to do given a lack of suitable materials), who "owns" the course? I'd still come down on the side of the actual writer (of original materials), but doubtless some employers would feel justified in staking a claim to ownership too.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
patjack67



Joined: 24 Feb 2004
Posts: 3
Location: Ireland

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have recently had some books published which had their first incarnation as materials produced for a privately owned language school where we (the illustrator and I) both worked. The publishing company would not consider publishing the materials without getting the owner of the school to sign a contract giving all rights on the materials to them.
In exchange, we give a percentage of any royalties we make from the books to the school. In our case, the characters in the books were based on the school's logo so everybody had to be clear about who could do what in the future. The books also had some innovative features that would have made it very obvious that they were based on the same materials.
The school owner is happy because she is getting professionally published materials of a much higher quality than she had been able to produce privately. We are happy that we have been able to take our work to a wider audience.The publishing company were happy anyway!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
tigertiger



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
Posts: 246

PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2005 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Depends on the laws of the country and you must remember that copyright is not a black and white issue.

For example, if I go to a Manchester United football game and take pictures, who has the copyright. Man U or me who owned tool the photo? This came up a few years ago and Man U won.

If I borrow your camera and take shot, on your film, I own the copyright (UK law). But in most cases it is not clear and the courts are reluctant to get involved. They prefer a settlement that benefits both parties, and agreement.

If you used any of the schools resources, PC, electric, paper, time they paid you for etc. Then they do have a claim, however it would be hard to substantiate. Could you prove sole authorship? Hard to establish, it would be a case of your word. This is why the UK courts prefer agreement.
As the sums from any royalty would be small, it would not be worth the court costs to sort it out.

One solution would be joint copyright. i.e. if you can make money out of it then great, but the school does not have a claim on any income you make, and vice versa.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Teacher Discussion Forums Forum Index -> Material Writing All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum


Teachers College, Columbia University: Train to Teach English Here or Abroad
SIT

This page is maintained by the one and only Dave Sperling.
Contact Dave's ESL Cafe
Copyright © 2011 Dave Sperling. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group