A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual.
The measure has some worried that by the system claiming ownership to the work of others, creativity could be stifled and there would be little incentive to come up with innovative ways to educate students. Some have questioned the legality of the proposal as it relates to students.
I expect to see more of these “InstaGrab” style ownership claims in the future, as tax revolts and billionaire-funded political movements erode public support for education. The longer-term goal will be to push debt-financing down the educational ladder, from college to high school and beyond. If instability in the debt markets makes that less feasible, another solution is to securitize future income streams–be they wages after school or rents from IP created while in school. PG County may end up pioneering a whole new chapter in the financialization of education.
According to one estimate, “global spending on education is $3.9 trillion, or 5.6% of planetary GDP.” The question for finance is: how to get a larger cut of that spending. Financialization transformed the US housing market via securitization over the past several decades, creating vast opportunities for bonuses at well-positioned firms. We should be on the lookout for ways in which IP will enable securitization of educational outputs as well. I oppose these trends, but they appear to be basic forces behind epiphenomenal struggles over IP rights, so we are well-advised to understand them.