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Rights to intellectual property

Discussion in 'Independent' started by bookworm456, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. bookworm456

    bookworm456 New commenter

    I've just had a new contract to sign from my school (permanent, replacing previous temporary contract) and there's a clause about intellectual property that I'm not very happy about. It states that intellectual property rights developed in the course of my employment (mentioning dramatic or musical compositions) remain the property of the school. I am a music teacher and I like to compose pieces for my choirs and ensembles, but I'm not comfortable signing over the intellectual property rights like this. Any advice?
  2. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    That is the normal situation for IP developed in the course of employment. The contract is only re-stating the presumption of ownership of the IP (I went to a fascinating presentation by the IPO the other day). So you aren't signing over the rights: they were never yours in law. However there is nothing to stop you negotiating special terms for your contract: might well be worth a try.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/intellectual-property-office is a helpful website.
    From there:
    Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or a film, is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work (subject to any agreement to the contrary). The expression “in the course of employment” is not defined by the Act but in settling disputes the courts have typically had to decide whether the employee was working under a ‘contract of service’ (eg as an employee) or a ‘contract for services’ (e.g. as a freelancer or independent contractor).

    Where a person works under a ‘contract for services’ he will usually retain copyright in any works he produces, unless there is a contractual agreement to the contrary.
  3. thinky

    thinky Occasional commenter

    There's some info here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ownership-of-copyright-works#works-created-for-an-employer

    The murky bit is that even if you create the works in your own time it might still be argued that you created it for the course of your employment.

    You can ask for an ammendment to your contract (I know some teachers who sell resources on here have done so) but you'd need to be able to be clear about which creations are for your employment and which are additional to it (and agree on how this would be indicated and how they may/may not be used).
    wanet likes this.
  4. frustum

    frustum Lead commenter

    I think it would be worth asking about amending the contract. It seems unlikely that they're going to do anything with your compositions, and so I'm not sure what the gain is for them. I'm sure I've seen works with "written for the choir of Such-and-such School" at the top - surely that would do the school more good than preventing publication or further use.
  5. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Established commenter

    I am under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that if you compose music, write a textbook or pen an article for a magazine in your own time, it's entirely up yo you what you do with it. You could use the song for your choir or the worksheets with your Maths class without hindrance, I would have thought. If, however, you are using school time/ppa time to compose/write, the school might take a different view, especially if you wanted to publish.
    As @frustum says, it's surely a benefit and an accolade for the school to have someone composing pieces for the choir etc. so it's hard to understand why they would make it difficult for you to do this. Other posters appear to have wise advice for you, so do follow up on their suggestions.
  6. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    I'm afraid it's not that simple. The legal test is not when you do the work but whether it is part of your job as an employee. If you produce lesson plans at home they are still likely to belong to your employer unless your contract states otherwise, because producing lesson plans is part of your work as a teacher - just as is marking, which might also be done in your own time.
    wanet and thinky like this.
  7. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Established commenter

    I see your point, @florian gassmann, but unless you are being employed as a composer-in-residence I have not heard that composing music for the school choir or orchestra is a requirement of any Music Teacher's job, but I stand to be corrected if your experience has shown otherwise. If a Music Teacher has a talent/flair for composing or arranging they will undoubtedly use it, but surely that is their choice and the piece is theirs to use as they wish without interference from the school?
    Lesson plans, creating worksheets and marking are very clearly part of the requirements of a teacher. Why would a school wish to own these? What could it do with them?
  8. thinky

    thinky Occasional commenter

    Not legally. As explained above it's whether or not the work would be considered to be a part of what you would be expected to do as your employment.

    It does seem absurd and I agree with the argument that it's a benefit to the school but unfortunately that doesn't change the legal position. I had this issue with an employer some years ago

    The simplest and most sensible thing to do is to put a request in writing for an ammendment to the contract - particularly as the contract already has reference to intellectual property rights. The contract is an agreement between both parties so there's nothing wrong with negotiating a change.
    ViolaClef and wanet like this.
  9. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    The intellectual property concerned doesn't need to be a requirement of the job. It is enough for it to be the type of thing that might be produced for the employer concerned. Only a court can decide, so it is by far and away best to get a statement of ownership rights in your contract to avoid any risk should a dispute arise.
    ViolaClef and wanet like this.
  10. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Established commenter

    I had a taste of this. I put ideas into the company suggestion scheme. One of them was a new product idea. As a computer analyst/programmer this was not part of my job description. The administrator of the scheme told me the idea did not fit into the companies plan for the future but may be taken up by a 'sister company' ( within a large plc). I protested that I had developed the idea for the benefit of the company I worked for but retained intellectual property rights and if offered I would demand a share of any profits that resulted.
    If I ever see the product for sale without any recognition (£) I will dig out my evidence and claim my rights.
  11. Aaaarghghgh

    Aaaarghghgh New commenter

    Simplest way to think about it is if you did it at work it belongs to the employer. If you did it on a work computer in your own time the employer may still argue it belongs to them. Lastly why no earth would you put something you wish to retain IP rights over into a company suggestion scheme? If you developed it in company time it belongs to them. And if you submitted it via the company suggestion scheme then you need to check the T&Cs of that scheme closely - do you for example relinquish all rights on submission of your idea?

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