I am working on a project for school and would like to know if it would be in the public domain.

closed as too broad by Dmitry Savostyanov, user3209815, Jeff, David Richerby, Buzz Jan 24 '17 at 13:52

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    If your country is a signatory to the Berne Convention, then you automatically own the copyright to anything you write, from the moment you write it (unless you're being paid to write it, and then it's Complicated). So unless you release it into the public domain, it isn't in the public domain. – JeffE Jan 18 '17 at 0:18
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    @JeffE write that as an answer? – ff524 Jan 18 '17 at 7:51
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    What if school policy states that students waive all copyrights for school projects? – sgf Jan 18 '17 at 9:45
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    @Jeffe Southern Polytechnic State University, in Georgia, USA, had such a policy. It is my understanding that the policy survived the merger of SPSU into Kennesaw State University. The policy applied only to work done by students in response to an assignment by a professor. – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 13:42
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    There are close votes. I'd like to see this one stay open. The IP policy on assigned work is of general concern in academia. I hope The4379 will edit the question to be more like, "Who owns work assigned by an instructor but done by a student." (I didn't edit it because it's a Big Change.) – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 14:30

If your country is a signatory to the Berne Convention, then you automatically own the copyright to anything you write, from the moment you write it, with some exceptions:

  • If you're being paid to write it, the work may qualify as "work for hire", in which case the copyright may be owned by whoever is paying you. Ask a lawyer (but not your employer's lawyer).

  • Some universities (for example, MIT) claim ownership of "Intellectual Property" developed using university resources (for example, the campus wifi network). Whether this claim applies to schoolwork is unclear. Ask a lawyer (but not the university's lawyer).

In any case, unless you (and/or your employer and/or the university, if they claim ownership) release it into the public domain, it isn't in the public domain.

  • The MIT policy (United States) is here:web.mit.edu/policies/13/13.1.html It's a little dense, but I think I could stretch it to cover assigned work developed for a grade. – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 13:51
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    I should note that this "side discussion" is about whether the student or the school owns schoolwork done by students. In either case, such work is not in the public domain. If the school claims ownership, it might be hard for the student to release such work, either directly into the public domain or under a Creative Commons license. – Bob Brown Jan 18 '17 at 14:19

I don't know a university that has good written policies on school work. In the US, it is likely that you own the copyright on the work. I think the assumption is that by handing in the work you are essentially agreeing to a copyright transfer agreement with the professor/department/university. The extent of the transfer must allow copying and distributing the work because the professor reasonably needs to be able to give it to a grader and make a copy to keep for the school records. It might need to be passed through a 3rd party plagiarism detection app. It might be eventually bundled with other students work as examples of past answers (and possibly sold for a profit). There may also be a tacit agreement that you will not distribute your work without the departments consent (i.e., not post your solutions online or hand it in for another class). As I said, I doubt any of this is written and most might be covered by fair use.

  • I think the correct assumption is not that the student is transferring copyright, but that they are providing their work under a license that allows grading, archiving, and plagiarism detection. I would consider bundling and selling a student's work without the student's explicit written permission to be grossly unethical. (Of course, that doesn't mean it's illegal.) – JeffE Jan 19 '17 at 3:28
  • @JeffE I agree a license might be more reasonable. My point was that something potentially happens when you turn the work in. I also agree bundling work would be unethical. – StrongBad Jan 19 '17 at 3:42

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