Is It Plagiarism If My Teacher Uses My Writing?

Do Teachers or Schools Own My Work?

As we discussed in September, you are the owner of the work you create for class.

Under copyright law, since you are the creator of your work and your school is not your employer, you own and hold the rights to everything you create.

While things are a bit more complicated if you are employed by your school, such as doing a work study program, the school only holds copyright in things that you did in relation to your job, not in relation to your studies. As such, you still own anything that you create in your class.

Not your teacher. Not your school.

However, this doesn’t mean that teachers can’t use your work in some limited capacities. When you submit your work to the class for a grade, you’re essentially giving your teacher a license to read the work and use it in the context of the class.

So, in addition to being able to read the work, check it for plagiarism, and make any copies of the work needed, they can also use it in the class. This can include showing or reading it to the class as an example.

In some cases, when using a student work as an example, a teacher may withhold the name for privacy reasons. Even though the use isn’t fully attributed, it’s not considered plagiarism because the teacher is not claiming credit for the work, instead attributing it instead to an anonymous student.

It might seem strange to not fully attribute a work in this situation. However, when full attribution could be a violation of privacy or otherwise be harmful to the student, it is best to be as thorough with attribution as possible, without harming the source (or student in this case).

But things get more complicated when student work is used by instructors outside of the classroom.

For example, if an instructor takes credit for a student story or a student’s research paper that would be plagiarism. Though the instructor may have helped with the work and even provided guidance, claiming the work as their own is still plagiarism.

Though there are situations where instructors may share credit for research performed by a student, it is still considered plagiarism to not credit the work and writing of the student.

Furthermore, teachers and schools can not use student work outside of the classroom without permission. For example, a teacher can not publish a collection of class essays without first getting permission. Likewise, a poem submitted in a class can not be published in the school’s literary magazine without the author giving permission.

For students, it’s important to remember that, when you submit a work for a grade in a classroom, you are giving your instructor and the school permission to use the work in certain ways. However, that permission has limits and you have the right to refuse any use that goes outside what is necessary for the instructor to grade your work and teach the class.

Thinking about these issues now can help you a great deal after graduation. Issues about how your work can and will be used do not stop at the classroom door and, most likely, will be something you have to consider wherever you go.