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Controversy In The Classroom: Whose IP Is It Anyway?
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Controversy In The Classroom: Whose IP Is It Anyway?

November 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Similarly, Susan Gold says that she would never associate with a school that didn't allow students to own their own work -- of which DigiPen is just one of a number worldwide.

Gold, who believes this is an important issue but not one that has been broached by the IGDA, is the chair of the IGDA's Education SIG, as well as the international development manager of the Masters of Digital Media Program at the Centre For Digital Media's Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver, Canada.

"My personal view is that students ought to retain the rights to their work," she says. "At schools that don't have that policy, typically students know that before they enter the school so really no one should be taken by surprise. I just think that it's a shame that the policy exists. I don't believe work should belong to anyone but its creators."

Asked whether she expects the IGDA to tackle that issue, Gold replies that "university policy is usually very hard to change."

However, she expressed curiosity about what other members of the IGDA's Education SIG feel about the topic and she posed the question online to her listserv roster which, she says, includes "educators around the world."

Here are a half-dozen typical responses from the 30-plus she received:

  • "Here, in the UK, student projects are the copyright of the student unless they are working for a company and being sponsored by them directly on the project."
  • "At Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center where I am a grad student, the students retain all of their IP. My project for the past two semesters has been a game and we are currently seeking publishers with the good graces and help of all the faculty here."
  • "Students, both undergrad and grad, retain all their IP for projects here at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia."
  • "I'm aware that some schools have the policy of retaining the rights to student IP and I even blogged about it recently. I consider the practice short-sighted and irresponsible and I encourage prospective students to be aware of this issue when they're applying to school."
  • "Here, in Australia, universities generally have an IP policy where the work that students produce for their courses belongs to the student, which is fair enough, I say, since the students don't work for us; in fact, they are paying us money. The issue can get complicated, however. There can be ongoing projects that last several semesters with different student teams, projects with significant input by the academics, and projects built on frameworks developed at the institute."
  • "I suggest that the IGDA come up with a statement of good practices, such as 'IGDA recommends that students retain the IP of their coursework and projects as a means of both motivating them to create publishable work and being able to present a portfolio to future employers.' Such a statement would make it clear that institutions retaining IP are not acting in the best interests of their students."

While it wasn't clear whether the IGDA's Education SIG would take up the issue, DigiPen's Comair says that a policy change is not out of the question. "Students come to DIT to learn and get the most out of their education, not to ship a game they created at school for profit," he says.

"We are a school, not a production house, and therefore our goal is for the students to gain the knowledge and experience they need to be successful in the field. We may lose students based on our IP policy, but this is not as important to me as is maintaining the quality of the education. 

"I am not saying that we will not change in the future," he adds. "But, in order to do that, we need to talk to the industry to see what they feel would be best. Our program advisory committee is made up of the best of the best companies in the world. So far," he says, "they are very happy with our policy."

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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