Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

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#1 CodeManFan  Icon User is offline

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Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:25 AM

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Hi -- I'm the mother of a teen programmer. I encouraged and supported my son's interest in programming from an early age and he has gotten amazingly proficient in Java through online tutorials and books. He is finishing up in a virtual High School he has attended because they offer better programming classes than the brick and mortar. Anyway, he has written several very professional programs that we are going to look into marketing this summer. And he is about to submit his best one yet to his teacher (he's taking independent study). This program is an art/drawing software that he has been working on for months off and on. He has scrapped it a couple of times -- destroying the code and starting over from scratch, each time with a new twist and more knowledge under his belt. It is awesome. (I'm a Ph.D. biologist with a little programming experience from long ago, and I'm an artist -- so I feel that I can honestly judge the worth and usefulness of the software he has developed) Anyway, this will be the first time he shows it to anyone outside our home. I'm nervous about him doing that. We basically only know the teacher from emails and a couple of phone calls -- he seems like a very nice guy, and I feel guilty even thinking suspicious thoughts about him! Is it reasonable to be concerned about showing the code to others in this way? I've considered that maybe my son could "whip something else together" to submit in place of this prized program, but that would be a lot of work in a few days (though possible). I'm sorry to bother you all with this non-technical question. I'm just trying to help my son get started on his "dream career" -- doing something he is good at and loves to do and maybe reaping some rewards for it... :-)

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#2 Renagado  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:32 AM

I can understand your concerns as a mother. My first thought was, if your son has been programming this long, there must be some other project of his that is worthy enough to submit, even when he has to do some finishing touches. Is this some form of test or exam for your son?

I mean if it's really something you're going to market, then I guess you'll never want to disclose the source code, however depending on what language the program is written in it might be easily reverse engineered especially without some protection against that.(though am sure your son knows this as well).

So basically my advise is if its possible to go for something else, do so. The main motivation for this is, better be safe then sorry.

This post has been edited by Renagado: 13 May 2011 - 09:33 AM

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#3 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:36 AM

I'm going to move this to the Corner Cubicle for better discussion. :)
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#4 Creecher  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:45 AM

I had this worry when I started school, but I spoke to a freind and he said to get it copyrighted under an open source copyright or something like that, and then send it off.


If anything, you could claim that the teacher plagiriszed your sons code and sue him.
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#5 Renagado  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:51 AM

View PostNeverPool, on 13 May 2011 - 06:45 PM, said:

get it copyrighted under an open source copyright or something like that, and then send it off.

Open source is great, but it won't really help when you're trying to market/sell things right?
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#6 CodeManFan  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:52 AM

View PostRenagado, on 13 May 2011 - 09:32 AM, said:

I can understand your concerns as a mother. My first thought was, if your son has been programming this long, there must be some other project of his that is worthy enough to submit, even when he has to do some finishing touches. Is this some form of test or exam for your son?

I mean if it's really something you're going to market, then I guess you'll never want to disclose the source code, however depending on what language the program is written in it might be easily reverse engineered especially without some protection against that.(though am sure your son knows this as well).

So basically my advise is if its possible to go for something else, do so. The main motivation for this is, better be safe then sorry.



Hi -- Thanks for answering! I was just about to add that this program is NOT a semester project (though it could be). He has submitted many other projects to this teacher. This is the one he's been working on "in the background" for a long time and thought he'd submit it for his final few weeks worth of work. He does have a couple other projects he could develop further and submit. I think your advice is very good and it agrees with my instincts -- "better safe than sorry" is a wise old adage I've used many times! And the fact that this assignment only covers a few weeks makes submitting such a big program "over-kill" to begin with...

Yes, my son has used an "obfuscation" application in the past, when posting his programs on his web site, to hide the code. I don't know which one or if it is the best one. Once we are past this obstacle I posted about, I'm going to leave "dream-in-code" and encourage him to join. Then he can discuss his own questions with all of you, including "what is the best method out there to protect code"?
Thanks again for answering -- and so quickly! (I love instant feedback! :-)
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#7 CodeManFan  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 10:17 AM

View PostNeverPool, on 13 May 2011 - 09:45 AM, said:

I had this worry when I started school, but I spoke to a freind and he said to get it copyrighted under an open source copyright or something like that, and then send it off.


If anything, you could claim that the teacher plagiriszed your sons code and sue him.



Thanks for replying! My understanding of copyright is that, like any other creation, all of your original code is copyrighted the moment you write it. Whether others respect that copyright, however, is not certain. For full protection, you need to submit the code to the US Copyright Office and get it registered. Even with full protection, however, others can rip off your code, requiring you to sue for them to desist. Then you have to prove "that there has been copying of “all or a substantial part” of the original work" , which sounds like a costly pain and lots of work. (http://www.gamesbrief.com/2011/04/demystifying-copyright-and-games/ -- This guy's articles have been very helpful on this subject.) Anyway, I think we'd rather avoid any chance of someone stealing the code by keeping it under wraps and using some kind of "obfuscation" process when he does put it out there...
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#8 Brewer  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 10:55 AM

Not to offend -- but I'm fairly confident that you do have to worry about your son's teacher stealing his code, that just sounds a bit ridiculous. I would imagine that this gent could do anything that your son can do, that's his job.
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#9 smohd  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 11:51 AM

View PostBrewer, on 13 May 2011 - 11:40 PM, said:

Not to offend -- but I'm fairly confident that you do have to worry about your son's teacher stealing his code, that just sounds a bit ridiculous. I would imagine that this gent could do anything that your son can do, that's his job.

I agree with that, if the man is the boy`s teacher, than he can do what his student can. But also a student may do what his teacher cant! If you dont want even a teacher to see that then that privacy is applicable but I am afraid if the boy asked many of the concepts he used from his teacher!
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#10 AdamSpeight2008  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 12:08 PM

Could it also be seen as the Teacher is commissioning the Student to produce the code, where in this case it doesn't belong to the student but the teacher.
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#11 Shane Hudson  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 12:17 PM

The only times I have had any problem with a teacher stealing my code is when he asked me to do some peices of code which he then showed to the class and it turned out to be the base of the assignment. But he eventually gave me and Fungle credit for our (majority) input to the code.

If you are too worried then "whipping something up" might be a good idea.
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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 12:21 PM

You could also have your son leave out some of the more advanced features(the ones that will make him money), like some companies do with their software, where you have to buy the full version to use all of its capabilities.
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#13 CodeManFan  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 05:39 PM

View PostBrewer, on 13 May 2011 - 10:55 AM, said:

Not to offend -- but I'm fairly confident that you do have to worry about your son's teacher stealing his code, that just sounds a bit ridiculous. I would imagine that this gent could do anything that your son can do, that's his job.


Yes, I didn't mean to imply that his teacher doesn't know as much about Java programming as my son. I have no idea about the teacher's abilities, but I would guess he's got some proficiency. But, I guess my concern is not so much whether he CAN write the code himself, but whether he WOULD write the code -- think of the idea and do it in this way-- without seeing my son's program. It's all hypothetical anyway and a bit paranoid, I admit, and I really don't like even hypothesizing about a perfectly charming person. I guess I just want to be certain my son's best program and idea isn't compromised and if it's not necessary for him to use this one, then I think I'll play it safe...
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#14 CodeManFan  Icon User is offline

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 06:22 PM

View PostAdamSpeight2008, on 13 May 2011 - 12:08 PM, said:

Could it also be seen as the Teacher is commissioning the Student to produce the code, where in this case it doesn't belong to the student but the teacher.



No, in this case it is an independent study course with a student of one, and the student can do any project he wishes to do. In fact, my son has very little interaction with the teacher, who is teaching at a brick and mortar school and also a course at the virtual school. The teacher is mostly involved in an advisory capacity.... Thanks for your input, though! :-)
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#15 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: Do teachers ever steal code from their students?

Posted 13 May 2011 - 06:28 PM

View PostBrewer, on 13 May 2011 - 01:55 PM, said:

I would imagine that this gent could do anything that your son can do, that's his job.

Those whom can do, those whom can't teach.

I agree that your son has very little to worry about, because what would a teacher do with stolen code? There are vast amounts of code available on the internet for free & anyone could easily steal a creation & claim it as their own. But certainly any concern of theft isn't a ridiculous idea.
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