Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Copyright with Natalie {Part 1}

I am sooo excited about what you are about to read! For the next three weeks, copyright go-to, Natalie Snyders will be discussing copyright dos and don'ts. If you are currently selling materials, are thinking of starting or are just interested in copyright as it pertains to your classroom, this is definitely a series you don't want to miss! And...what better time to open up a TeachersPayTeachers store than at the beginning of the school year?! We all can use a little bit of learning in this all-too-often confusing area and Natalie's knowledge on this topic is extensive.

Part 1: Copyright Basics

So you want to get started in the blogging world or sell your materials on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT)?  Or maybe you’ve been doing one or both for a while now, or perhaps you just like to buy things from TpT.  For all three of these scenarios, you need to make sure you have an understanding of copyright and trademark issues.
          “Oh, no,” you think.  “That sounds complicated!  Can’t I just post whatever I want, the same way I do in my classroom?” 
          Actually, most of it is not as complicated as you think, and no, you don’t have the same freedom online that you do in your classroom.  Generally, a rule of thumb to avoid copyright and trademark issues online is to ask, “Does this belong to me?”  If the answer is no, don’t use it!
This series of posts is designed to help sort out some of the main issues, and provide you with some working knowledge of copyright and trademark to keep you out of legal trouble or ethical “gray areas.”   A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Does this belong to me?”  If the answer is no, it’s generally not ok to use.
(Please note that I am not a lawyer, and the information provided here is for informational purposes only.  Since joining the online world in July of 2012, I have done my best to educate myself on these matters, but I’m not an expert by any means.  I hope this post inspires you to research further if you have specific questions!)
          First of all, what does copyright mean?  According to Merriam-Webster, copyright is defined as, “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”  Notice that this definition does not include the words “idea” or “concept.”  No one can claim copyright on general ideas or concepts, and you can create original work on any topic you wish. 
For instance, let’s use the example of stimulus cards for articulation.  I’m sure you have seen lots of different versions of articulation cards by different companies and sellers – I have several sets in my own store.  This is not a violation of copyright to have the same general idea to create artic cards; however, it would be a violation to use the same clip art, format, and/or list of stimulus words on your cards as someone else’s, because that would not fit the criteria of “original work.” 
Another example I have been asked about before is book companions and copyright.  Many SLPs and teachers read books in their classrooms and create activities to go along with the books.  Generally speaking, this is fine to post online; however, you do need to keep certain things in mind:
·        You should make sure to state that your product is a companion to the book, and that the user will need to buy or borrow the original text to utilize your product.  It’s a good idea to state that you are not affiliated with the book’s author or publisher in your product description.
·        You should not use large chunks of text from the book in your products (usually 1-2 lines is acceptable).
·        You should not use book covers/pages in your product or promotional images, or use clip art that is a very close copy (in that it looks like it came directly from the book or screen) of the book’s characters or images (chances are that the artist violated copyright while creating the images). 
You should not create materials to post online for the following: Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Elf on the Shelf, Pete the Cat, or the Daily 5.  The publishers/authors of these have sent cease and desist letters to TpT, and are likely to pursue legal action against any seller who does so.  (Buyers?  This is why you won’t see materials for most of these books/materials, so please don’t ask!)  Note:  The Daily 5 allows free products only, but no paid materials. 

Thanks Natalie!  These are some copyright basics to get you started. Please stop by next Tuesday for Copyright with Natalie Snyders Part 2: Copyright and Images.
Make sure to check out her awesome TPT store and follow her on facebook for more updates!

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Nicole Allison