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Earlier this week a friend sent me a couple of links to articles on intellectual property and students. One was about piracy (Future Tense: Piracy Revisited) and it consists of an author explaining how “getting stuff for free” can be stealing. This article mirrors very closely conversations I had with students over the years. It doesn’t often go well. Very often students don’t see how these issues (piracy) really impact them. And lets face it for many students, especially in high school and earlier, it is “all about them.” That is where the second article comes into play.
The second article is about students being able to retain the rights to their own work. (Analysis: Solutions to Student Ownership and The DigiPen IP Problem) The issue here is that some of the top game development educational programs retain the intellectual property rights of the students in their programs. In other words, students who create games as part of their course work are not permitted to sell or otherwise distribute what they create. So if a student creates a game for a course and wants to submit it to the Xbox Live Marketplace they can’t. I would imagine that a lot of students would like to recover some of that tuition money this way.
Now this is not limited to game development or even computer science courses. Take a look at the WPI IP rules for students. I have heard stories of students deciding that they had a school project that had real money making potential and dropping out of college to go into business. I don’t see this as a great win for anyone. The school loses good will and tuition for no return. The student may or may not make money from their project but they do lose out on more education.
This issue comes up with competitions by the way. The Imagine Cup competition from Microsoft tries to make very clear that students retain the rights to their intellectual property if they enter. Though, admittedly, sometimes the legal talk makes that confusing. A number of teams have taken their Imagine Cup projects and made them into businesses though. And that is a great thing! Also as I wrote about the other day, students who take advantage of the DreamSpark program (and are over 18) can enter projects into the Windows Phone 7 market place. Encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit is a good thing.
In the long run I think most schools would benefit most by letting their students retain intellectual property rights. But you should read some of those articles to see all sides of the issue. It’s not all black and white.
Dr. James Parrish is on the faculty at the University of Arkansas Little Rock and has recently started a blog. (James Parrish blog) It looks like he will be blogging abut a lot of topics including Cloud Computing. What caught my attention today (I just found out about his blog) was that he has already written about his and his students involvement with the Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup is one of the if not the premier international technology (computer science, software development, game development, IT) competition in the world. Dr. Parrish and his students have been participating and doing quite well for several years now. His posts talk about the experience as well as two posts on how to be successful in the Imagine Cup. I recommend them.
Oh and don’t forget that I had a guest post by Pat Yongpradit who mentored a high school team that made it to the US Imagine Cup finals in the game development section not long ago. See Advice For An Imagine Cup Team for that post and advice. The Imagine Cup is a great opportunity for students of all ages in my opinion. For high school students it includes a great opportunity for something for that college application that shows passion and drive beyond just what goes on in class. Universities, like companies later on in life, are looking for passion and a willingness to do more than just the minimum requirements. The Imagine Cup is one opportunity to show that drive and determination.
I’ve talked about DreamSpark before of course but the start of the school year seems like a great time for a reminder. The Microsoft DreamSpark Program provides students with Microsoft Professional Development tools for free! Lots of tools! The full professional suite including Visual Studio and several server products. It provides access to the XNA creators club as well. It’s an amazing amount of software.
A recent edition is that now students can build and deploy apps to Windows Phone Marketplace for free through DreamSpark (In the US and other selected areas - also you have to be 18 in the US*) This is a real value as it lets students create and sell applications without paying the usual marketplace fee.
The part of DreamSpark that gets the most attention is the sign up for college/university students. But high school students can get in on this program as well. The way this works is that someone (an adult who may be a teacher or an administrator) signs the school up and gets up to 200 access codes. This person (called an administrator by the program) then validates that the students they give these codes to are in fact students. The students can then sign up and start downloading software for free. And of course taking advantage of the other program features. Sign up you high school at https://www.dreamspark.com/highschool/
Give students some software and cut them lose to learn on their own. And have them look at the Imagine Cup and to think about entering that as well.
*Note: Late edit there is a minimum age for submitting to the Windows Phone marketplace "You are at least 18 years of age (or of an age of full legal capacity in the location where you reside) on the date you submit your Application(s) to Microsoft; " I didn't know that when I first posted this entry. Sorry if I got anyone's hopes up to high.