Open Content

Over at “iterating toward openness” at, David Wiley makes several good points in his post regarding the recently reported deal between Pearson Education and the Montgomery County Public Schools (Washington Post).  According to the article the school district will be “paid $2.25 million to develop an elementary school curriculum” and then Pearson will augment their work and make sales around the world.  The phrasing suggests that the money will be for what the school system will do in the future rather than just being payment for currently existing work.

Also, the article states that the future payment(s) will give Pearson “the expertise of one of the nation’s top school systems and the right to use its name and its top employees as sales tools.”  All of this is logical additional value because it is hard to believe that there could be much more than the thinnest veneer of copyright protection available for a “school curriculum.”  Chances are good that the Montgomery school system personnel are not really providing a lot of originality since for generations teachers have been copying each others materials with minimal iterative improvements being made along the way.  Furthermore, the more these materials conform to the developing public domain standards, the less protectable they are under copyright.

It seems that Pearson puts some value in the Montgomery school system name and in just having access to the staff.  And it may even be that some of what they are paying for is just good will – almost as if they made a donation to the school system and just didn’t want their shareholders to be upset so they make it look like they are buying something.  It would be interesting to see if the school system and/or Pearson would make the terms of their agreement publicly available.

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