Sunday, January 14, 2007

Who Owns an Idea?

I've been thinking a lot lately about this question - who owns an idea? It's becoming increasingly important for me as I use more and more Web technologies in my teaching practice. This means I'm blogging, posting to wikis, using aggregators, creating Web sites and using other tools and technologies to make resources available to my learners (and pretty much anyone else who can work a browser). These resources all originated from an idea (usually someone else's).

Now, I've always been a "sharer", giving resources and other materials I've created to learners and fellow faculty - I post all of my exercises, projects, assignments, and handouts to an internal repository that any faculty member can get to and I encourage people to use them if they work for them. I have a background in curriculum development, so I am used to many people using my work products, and while I have pride in my work, I do not have a great deal of "pride of authorship" meaning that I am not particularly attached to the work I create and if it's of use to you - go for it and use it (although I would appreciate attribution where required :-)).

I got thinking about this issue for two reasons - I've been listening in on a education list where this has become a hot topic - with the ever increasing use of the Web in education and the with the attitude of many that what is on the Web is "free", many people are not sharing in order to keep ownership of their materials. This results in a loss of really good resources and learning opportunities. The second reason came this week while I was attending a college workshop discussing among other things, the sharing of work to increase the body of knowledge of the college as a whole. A point was raised that a staff or faculty member's desire to retain their intellectual property rights might conflict with this sharing environment.

I guess the question for me is who owns an idea - is it the original thinker or is it the larger community that debates the idea, forms it, and benefits from it? Hmmm...

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