Myth: Common Core can’t be changed because of the Copyright

This claim comes in several forms, which are only loosely based in fact.

  • CC is copyrighted and can’t be changed.
  • States must adopt the entire CCSS, without change
  • States can only ADD 15% to the standards

The purpose of copyright laws is to protect the works of the copyright owner from being used in ways that they don’t approve.  There are levels of copyright.  To take advantage of the most basic level, all an author must do is put a copyright claim on their work.  You’ve seen these.

Many copyright owners release their works to the public with various restrictions.  One you see often is, “You are free to use these works in any way as long as you don’t make money from it.”  The fact that they have a copyright on their works gives the copyright owner the ability to let people use the publication without charge but with a few restrictions.  Without the copyright they would not have the legal standing to do this.

All that said, the Common Core State Standards are indeed copyrighted works.  But the copyright owners have said that states can use them any way they want.  This is a public statement by Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve…

“States can do whatever they want and always have been able to. There is no limit to what changes, additions or subtractions a state wants to make.”

The Common Core State Standards are provided under Public License.  The official statement says that “These uses may involve the Common Core State Standards as a whole or selected excerpts or portions.”  That means that you don’t have to use the whole set.

The claim that states can only add 15% to the standards does have a fact behind it.  The publisher suggests that states only add 15%.  This is a guidance, not a restriction.  The idea is that if states change the standards greatly then they become less common.  But states can do it if they choose.

The fact of the matter is that Alabama can use the standards pretty much any way we want.   We haven’t done so, but if we find that there are standards that should be modified or taught at a different time than CCSS specifies, then we will make changes.  It is our right.

Reference: Core Question: Does Copyright Mean States Can’t Change The Common Core?

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