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When Educrats Attack: Chairman Milt’s Unhinged Tirade

By Greg L | 10 March 2013 | Prince William County | 14 Comments

I have quite obviously hit a nerve with the educrat powers that be in Prince William County given that less than twelve hours after announcing that I intend to file a lawsuit against the Prince William County Schools educrat-in-chief Chairman Milt is publicly threatening me for being critical of government.  When your criticisms are wrong, government ignores you.  When you’re criticisms are right, government threatens and attacks you.  We’re obviously on the right track here.

What makes this so outrageously funny is that Chairman Milt is an attorney when he’s not busy impersonating an elected official on the School Board.   Attorneys are supposed to be smart, educated people who are very careful and deliberate about what they do when it relates to the law.  I suppose every profession has their dregs though, as Chairman Milt couldn’t even wait twelve hours before letting fly a barrage of bountiful bullshit topped off with a stern but utterly ridiculous warning that criticizing the government could get you sued. Not in a letter, or a court brief, but he put this on a publicly-accessible blog as a comment.  Really?

Good golly, do they just let anybody practice law these days?

Without further ado, let’s take a good thorough look at what must either be the product of willful ignorance or utter incompetence, since it’s a tremendous demonstration of just how far our public school system has sunk.  This of course is entirely subject to the assumption that the Chairman of the Prince William County School Board is a knowledgeable and authoritative spokesman for Prince William County Schools.  If he’s not, then let me offer my apologies in advance.

The very first clause of the first sentence of Section 4.2 reads “Students retain copyright in all materials submitted for assessment purposes…” In actual legal terms, that means that children aren’t surrendering any intellectual property rights. They retain those rights. What the children grant is a “non-exclusive, charge free, worldwide license” which means that the children can’t charge IB, and IB can use the material anywhere, but the children can grant that same license to any other party.

I can’t imagine an attorney trying to argue that if one is forced to hand over copyright to someone else they somehow retain all of their rights.  The whole idea of copyright is that it is an exclusive right, that you own what you created, you control how it is used, and no one else does.  When you buy music or a movie or some other creative product you don’t get a copyright when you buy it, you get a license to use it that doesn’t grant you the right to make copies of it to sell to other people.  Rights.  Copies.  Copyright.

So what happens to the value if intellectual property once you’ve handed over a non-exclusive copyright to a third party?  It certainly doesn’t retain the value it once had because someone else can enjoy it also, whether that be to earn money from it in some way, use it in ways you do not approve and cause emotional harm, or even harass you by divulging it in ways you do not agree with.  There’s supposedly no surrender of rights in this?  Who in their right mind could argue such patent nonsense?

So IB doesn’t exclusively control the material and children can license it to other parties simultaneously. The license to use the material is for “assessment, educational, training and/or promotional purposes relating to the IB Organization’s activities, or to those related activities of which it approves.” What this means is that if your daughter draws a picture as part of an assessment (i.e. an IB test), they can put it in their catalog, or on their web site, as an example of the type of work that is produced in the IB program. This clause does NOT grant them the right to sell your daughter’s picture for profit. This clause also limits their license to materials submitted for assessment purposes (meaning IB tests) and not all material produced by the child while in the IB program.

The actual language that parents are being coerced into accepting is as follows:

Students retain copyright in all materials submitted for assessment purposes, but by submitting those materials, and subject to article 4.5, students thereby grant the IB Organization a non-exclusive, charge-free, worldwide licence, for the duration of the statutory copyright protection, to reproduce submitted materials in any medium for assessment, educational, training and/or promotional purposes relating to the IB Organization’s activities, or to those related activities of which it approves.

What does this gobbledygook actually mean?  We know that “the duration of statutory copyright protection” means until seventy years after the student has died, unless further extended.  As for the rest of this the meaning is utterly dependent on how courts in Switzerland might interpret this language.  Switzerland?  Yep, that’s something else parents are being coerced to agree with here.  Despite Chairman Milt’s confident but utterly baseless assertions regarding how Swiss civil law operates, any actually reasonable person might likely believe they are quite uncertain about Swiss courts operate and given the rather great hurdle it would be for an average citizen to file a lawsuit in a Swiss court would come to the conclusion that their ability to prevent the IBO from wrongly using their grant of legal power is quite limited.  Unless you have some certainty about how this would be litigated, the only responsible conclusion to draw here is that there is no effective limit on what the IBO can do with your children’s stuff.

Until Chairman Milt produces his license to practice law in Switzerland as a demonstration of his legal competency, his opinion about the limitations IBO is subject to is no more authoritative than that of Bob the Hot Dog Vendor, or for that matter any random blogger with a creatively named website.

Further protecting your daughter’s commercial rights in her intellectual property, Section 4.5 allows a student to withdraw the license under exceptional circumstances. So if your daughter, as part of an IB assessment (meaning test) writes the Great American Novel and submits that to IB, she can withdraw the license for IB to use that novel as part of its assessment, educational, training and/or promotional material. IB never has, nor will they ever have, the right, under this license, to sell that Great American Novel on their own for profit, but nonetheless, your daughter can withdraw the license to that novel so that she can sell her entire rights under her lucrative publishing contract.

Oh, what tremendous protection this affords.  Students themselves are supposed to submit a request to the IB Program Coordinator at the school each and every time they want to exclude one of their creations from the mountain of personal materials the school ships off to a foreign company.  Let’s remember here that we’re placing the onus on a minor here.  We’re asking children as young as eleven to file legal paperwork with a school each and every time they create something that they think IBO might be interested in, perfectly foreseeing every implication of a failure to do so.  Say what?

Here’s an excerpt from the manual that governs how program coordinators are supposed to act in this regard:

This license will be free of charge and become effective for moderation and monitoring of assessment materials as soon as these materials are received by the moderators or by the IB, unless the student notifies the IB at the time of submission that he or she intends to retain exclusive copyright in identified materials.  However, the IB expects this right to be exercised only rarely, for exceptional works of art or music, or for original computer programs; in short for material that has commercial value or extremely personal or confidential matter for which protection in this way is appropriate… In all cases, in order to be valid, the notification must be filed with the IB assessment center in Cardiff in writing on behalf of the student by the MYP coordinator. (emphasis in the original) 

Notice here that the onus is on the student to assert their rights each and every time they complete their schoolwork, instead of the IB Program Manager requesting permission from the parents of the student to disclose this work product to third parties as is required under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Virginia Code § 22.1-287.  Additionally, the assertion of retaining those rights is entirely subject to whether the local IB Program Coordinator remembers to file paperwork in a foreign country and it actually gets filed.  This whole scheme of having minors make the decisions about their privacy and property instead of their parents, hampered by a pretty clearly stated intent by the IBO to have school personnel discourage and roadblock legal assertions of rather fundamental property rights, and an escape hatch of using bureaucratic inefficiency and hostility to thwart the process is utterly ridiculous, if not outright unlawful.  

Chairman Milt then tries to invent some “facts” to support his case.

A few other factual corrections - IB isn’t the ONLY educational program at Stonewall Middle School. It is the only specialty program, but students are not required to participate in IB classes, so no child would be denied an education if Stonewall Middle is their base school - they just wouldn’t take the IB classes.

Actually, parents have been told that the only curriculum available at Stonewall Middle is the IB program.  Other parents have confirmed that in response to Chairman Milt’s statements, so if there’s an alternative to the program as he says that has been a quite closely guarded secret.

Further still, IB is a non-profit foundation. Distribution of profit to equity holders destroys an organization’s non-profit status.

Non-profit foundations supposedly have no economic motives now?  They have close to $100 million in assets and turned a profit of nearly $5 million in 2011, but are devoid of any economic motives that could possibly conflict with the interests of my children.  Right.  I suppose that the program was initially funded by the Ford Foundation and the United Nations shouldn’t raise any concerns that their motives might not be perfectly harmless, either.  They have economic and legal interests and those obviously don’t conform to my or my families legal and economic interests otherwise the school system wouldn’t be demanding I sign legal documents giving up the property rights of my children, subject to the determination of a court in a foreign country.

And here’s the wrap up, where Chairman Milt transitions from being just stupid and incompetent to being threatening.

So the bottom line is that your statement that the Prince William County School System is “participating in an illegal scheme intended to generate profits for a foreign company and demanding that children surrender their intellectual property rights as a condition of enjoying constitutionally guaranteed rights,” is factually and legally false.

I recommend you reconsider this post as it is at least in part, if not in whole, defamatory. And that would be a case a Plaintiff’s attorney would take.

Notwithstanding that Chairman Milt failed to make a single substantive legal argument disputing my assertions or present a single fact, here comes the threat that I am in danger of being sued for defamation.  By whom might I be sued, one might wonder.  In my original post I did not identify a single individual by name.  Would an attorney for the schools conclude, as Chairman Milt suggests, that I had defamed Prince William County Schools, the only entity I singled out in that post, and bring down the terrible and crushing power of government on my head for having the temerity to criticize it?

Here’s a pro tip from a blogger who gets threatened by useless government bureaucrats and wannabe politicians fairly regularly to an ignorant and incompetent attorney and political hack who should damn well know better: Government cannot sue anybody for defamation.  There’s this obscure legal thing called the First Amendment to The United States Constitution you see, which prevents this.  To save you the trouble of actually having to engage in such a strange and unusual practice called “legal research” I’ll just quote it for you:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you’d like to read something that might help explain it for you, as I know the language here might be difficult to grasp, I’d recommend reading the decision of the US Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254 (1964) and Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).  If after reading these you still think someone ought to sue me for defaming the government, or making fun of how utterly ridiculous you are here, by all means make sure someone sues me.

I quite enjoy the amusement such patent nonsense always seems to provide.

NOTE: I’m still seeking additional plaintiffs for a class action lawsuit against the School System to put a stop to this.  The response so far has been rather encouraging, but there’s always room for more.



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14 Comments

  1. Doug Brown said on 10 Mar 2013 at 4:05 pm:
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    Greg,

    I woudn’t characterize his response so much as an unhinged tirade as just another back of the hand, nose in the air rebuke to a lowly rabble rousing blogger. There was one question left unanswered by Chairman Johns’ response: Are PWC taxpayers picking up the tab for his dinner tonight?

  2. Milt Johns said on 10 Mar 2013 at 4:45 pm:
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    Greg - you should probably re-read NY Times v. Sullivan for the “actual malice” standard discussion. Also, admittedly while it is a higher standard for a defamation claim to be made against a government official, it is a much lower standard for impugning someone’s fitness for their trade.

    Your assertions about copyright law are just wrong. Ask you attorney about licensing of intellectual property before he files your class action lawsuit.

  3. Greg L said on 10 Mar 2013 at 5:20 pm:
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    Ooh, more thinly-veiled threats. I am so terrified.

    You know, Chairman Milt, you should just go ahead and file that defamation lawsuit you’re threatening me with. A failure to do so would probably indicate your intent here is not to assert a legal right but to simply harass someone while trampling all over the Standards of Professional Conduct for attorneys in Virginia, including Rule 3.4(j).

    You already won one case against a blogger, right? Surely you could win again.

  4. Rich said on 10 Mar 2013 at 6:11 pm:
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    Someone has been doing their research….

  5. Hedley Lamaar said on 10 Mar 2013 at 7:57 pm:
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    There is no way the real Milt Johns, our School Board Chairman, is stupid enough to post here. No one in that position could possibly be that ignorant…could they?

    [Ed note: yep, it checks out - the email address and the IP address, and this is consistent with what I’ve heard from him in the past. No one was impersonating him as far as I can tell.]

  6. charles said on 10 Mar 2013 at 11:19 pm:
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    If you don’t understand the words, you might consult an attorney.

    I mean, it seemed clear enough to me. Also, the concept of non-exclusive rights is not obscure or bizarre. It might well reduce the value of something, or might not — the software world, as you well know, is replete with non-exclusive unlimited licensing arrangements.

    There are a lot of good tihngs to get worked up about in this life. I’m sorry to see you expending so much effort on this thing that is so normal. If you don’t want the schools to have the right to use things your daughter does, then sadly you need to homeschool. Schools have always claimed the right to work. If your daughter writes a good paper, they will use it as an example. The teacher will file it away. A good poem could end up in a poetry offering where they’ll try to get the parents to pay money.

    Gee, maybe all of that is some absurd thing. I would recommend that kids simply not submit work they want to sell profitably for a grade at school.

    Or, you can mock highly successful lawyers, and people here will think you are making sense. That’s the advantage of having a popular blog with followers. Don’t let that deceive you.

  7. The Derecho said on 11 Mar 2013 at 7:27 am:
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    Apart from whether it’s the real Milt or not, the IB proposition brings some interesting questions to the table from a legal and jurisdictional standpoint.

    17 USC § 201 - Ownership of copyright

    (d) Transfer of Ownership.—
    (1) The ownership of a copyright may be transferred in whole or in part by any means of conveyance or by operation of law, and may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession.
    (2) Any of the exclusive rights comprised in a copyright, including any subdivision of any of the rights specified by section 106, may be transferred as provided by clause (1) and owned separately. The owner of any particular exclusive right is entitled, to the extent of that right, to all of the protection and remedies accorded to the copyright owner by this title.
    (e) Involuntary Transfer.— When an individual author’s ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, has not previously been transferred voluntarily by that individual author, no action by any governmental body or other official or organization purporting to seize, expropriate, transfer, or exercise rights of ownership with respect to the copyright, or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, shall be given effect under this title, except as provided under title 11.

    Given that the transfer is signed by the parent or legal guardian of the student and not the student/author I suspect one could argue that it is an involuntary transfer of an intellectual property that legally belongs solely to the student/author.

    The other interesting question is one of venue, again as the transfer may be involuntary I would suspect appropriate remedy would and could be sought in the US Courts and if memory serves all US Copyright disputes are the sole purview of US District Courts. Has anyone looked to see if the Swiss venue has been challenged?

  8. Bob the Hot Dog Vendor said on 12 Mar 2013 at 1:52 pm:
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    Stop defaming me. I got lawyers too, you know.

  9. charles said on 12 Mar 2013 at 8:31 pm:
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    ‘The Derecho’ — I always felt that way when I was signing things. I mean, so long as my kid was a minor, I knew that my signature would allow them to use their pictures, and they might appear in videos.

    But I was pretty sure that if by some chance my kids created something of value, and later wanted to do something like publish a book, or hold an artist exhibit, that MY signature on a piece of paper would not be an impediment.

    Of course, you also have to realize that the in fact, the school has no interest in owning the copyright to things the kids do. IB doesn’t want to steal intellectual property. That is what makes this kind of funny.

    The IB program DOES collect a large amount of things the kids do, it’s kind of the point of the program, to build this huge portfolio that can then be passed around as the student moves on. And as such, the IB program wants the right to hold the portfolios, in part in case they are evaluating students. It wouldn’t do if a student could, at any time, pull things from the portfolio and refuse to allow them to be judged.

    (You might well decide the IB program is too intrusive in that regard, I know I thought so, but that is a different matter).

    If a school or the IB actually tried to turn student work into a money-making enterprise, it would not work out well for them. But you know, to even try to do that would take minds which are not what you find in government, public educational organizations, or the like.

  10. Anonymous said on 12 Mar 2013 at 9:16 pm:
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    Dude, it only means they can promote it for IB only. IB cant sell it to disney and grant them copyright. Your english comprehetion skills such! Your reading level must be at that of a high school grad. Reread the diclosure slowly taking into part the puctuation used!

  11. Benton said on 14 Mar 2013 at 4:53 pm:
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    So, did you file your lawsuit?

  12. Greg L said on 15 Mar 2013 at 1:27 am:
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    Updates will be coming once the lawyers clear information for public release. Stay tuned.

  13. Anonymous said on 15 Mar 2013 at 10:45 pm:
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    Idiot, cant you read? The IB program cant sell your kids works to another? What is it that you you think they can sell it to disney?I have been to civil court several times without a lawyer. The judge looks at me as ” ohh my good, you dont have a leach with you? Dude, you will go pennyless with a lawyer in this! With a civil suit, you get to pay your lawyer for hours waiting for a hearing. Thet schedual you after all the criminal crap is over at what ever time that might be. Your gonna pay for one to sit around for six hours to schedual a hearing with the otr party. after that when you do go for the hearing, you have to pay the lawyer to sit around all day long for your turn. Wow the otr side ask for a continuance then you you go thru the whole scebang again! Lets not forget the motion for discovery caveat, another delay tactic to screw your finacials up. Once it agreed upon that you cant agree, then you scedual a hearing on when you can go to court. We are looking at 5000 in lawyewr fees allready! Have fun.

  14. Anonymous said on 15 Mar 2013 at 10:53 pm:
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    Civil cases take a long time to deal with . it took me almost two years to deal with mine. Unless you have friends up in there, it aint the time to be a nathaniel Hawthorn in pwc! In pwc Court, it is reminded of the medivale or fuedal cort systems from which it is derived! Look up preponderance of evidence and you will see what I mean. There is no with out a doubt in civil courts! Warning. Post when you go and I will attend your modern day ars whipping by the state

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