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Rights and conditions
02 November 2016
Many teachers and lecturers create classroom resources and other material in the course of their teaching career. Determining who owns the copyright to this work depends on a number of factors.

Material produced at work

To avoid conflict with employers over copyright, it's wise to inform and make an agreement with them in advance of commencing any work to be copyrighted.

If there is an indication in your contract of employment as to the ownership of copyright in any work produced this will naturally help to resolve any doubts. However, teachers' contracts rarely, if ever, make any mention of copyright.

However, the authors of the materials upon which teaching relies are of course entitled to rewards for their creativity. A growing number are working teachers and lecturers producing books, tapes and even computer programmes on a freelance basis.

The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act states that copyright in a work produced by an employee 'in the course of his employment' belongs to the employer. In short, if producing the work is 'part of the job' then the employee cannot claim the copyright.

In assessing whether your work was done in the course of employment, it will be relevant (but not conclusive) to consider whether it was produced:

  • on school premises
  • in school time
  • with the use of school facilities.

Examples might be a teacher who has written a biology textbook outside of teaching hours, or a carol for the Christmas concert. In both cases, the teacher would have a very good argument for claiming the copyright of the work.

Material produced in your own time

If you create some work in your own time, the litmus paper test is whether you were undertaking your duties as an employee or, alternatively, producing something essentially on your own behalf.

To put it another way, could your employer criticise you for failing to produce the material? If not, you are likely to have a good claim to copyright.

An example might be a teacher who has written a programme to handle the schools timetabling. If the teacher was, say, a main scale teacher of PE, she would probably have a good claim to the timetabling programme, even if it was written on the school computer and in school time.

However, if the teacher was a deputy head teaching computer sciences with timetabling as part of his job description, his LEA may well be entitled to the copyright, even though he wrote the programme at home.

See also