What is Fair Use and Open-Ness?

I heard about my degree program from a boy who was dating my daughter.  He was a junior when they started dating and he would talk about the program he was in and when I started at Ohio State, I switched my major from a straight business degree to this program, Corporate Training and Development.  I say all that to set a stage.  My first semester in school and I am in one of my core classes.  This class has a major project assignment that goes all semester long, with partial deliverables and one big deliverable at the end.  As the class went on I would talk to this boy as he had been through this before.  One of my partial deliverables did not receive a very good grade and I asked for his help because I obviously wasn’t understanding the project requirements.  As he worked with me through the project, he came to realize that the instructor was using his final deliverable as one of a group of “good” samples for our class.  It had been sanitized, his name was not on the document, but he recognized his work.  He was rankled, but he did not pursue any action with the instructor or the College of Education and Human Ecology.

So I guess this is about fair use and “open-ness” gone wrong?  How open is open?  Who did that work belong to?  The student who created it or the school he turned it into?  What could he have done if he did decide to pursue it?  What would have happened? I really don’t know the answers to any of these questions but it really does give me something to think about.  I am a big proponent of not “recreating the wheel” at my job and I use previously created letters and memos for file all the time.  I realize the rules are different because I work for the Federal Government but the behaviors are the same.  You just have to be very careful to make sure you know the parameters of your situation, whether it be school, work or anytime you might be using something you found on the internet.

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