Friday, December 7, 2012

WARNING: Copyrights & Trademarks

  As the Internet has exploded, so has the copyright and trademark violations. You would think teachers would know better, right? There seems to be a misconception that if something can be downloaded for free from the original source, or if you pay for a product that it's okay to post it online. Perhaps you've posted copyrighted worksheets on secure servers for students or parents. Did you know that these "secure" worksheets can be found through Google, and downloaded by just about anyone who is even partially text savvy?
  Here is the scoop on what is acceptable and what crosses the line:

  • If you find a free downloadable resource, you cannot post it on the Internet unless it is specifically stated in the terms of use. This includes posting it to your school website or district servers. You can provide a link to the original source. Please don't download a free resource from a site that doesn't have permission to post it. Just because it's free from the author and / or publisher, doesn't mean it's free to post online without permission! You can link, but you can't post.
  • If you purchase a resource, it's generally for classroom use only. Read the terms of use. You cannot give copies to your colleagues or post the product on the Internet without express written permission from the author and / or publisher.
  • If you want to brag about a product or book on your blog or website -go ahead! Post a link to the original source and give the author the credit, but don't post any of the pages without the author's (or publisher's) permission. Teacher-authors and children's authors are usually thrilled when other teachers brag about their work, so take a moment to contact them. They might even agree to guest blog!
  • You cannot post pages or texts of picture books or novels on the Internet. I've actually run across teacher websites with entire copies of picture books copied into PowerPoint slideshows. That is illegal! It's generally accepted that you can post the cover of a book if it links to a site that sells the book (like Amazon or Barnes and Noble). Side note: If you are a teacher-author or blogger, you can set up an associate account with Amazon. You can legally post book cover pictures that link to Amazon within your product, or from your website, blog, or electronic newsletter. This is the best way to get access to legal copies of book covers for your literature units.)
  • Yes, you can use short quotes from text. Cite your source!
  • If in doubt -write the author and / or publisher and ask for permission.
  • You cannot post graphics or clipart for free or in a commercial product unless you have rights (it's public domain, or you purchased rights of use or commercial rights). This is one of the reasons many teacher-authors sell their products as PDF files. They purchased the right to use the graphics in paid products, but only in a secure form!
  • Here is a sticky one: reader's theatre. You can write (to use, give away, or sell) an original reader's theatre, but you cannot write (to give away or sell) a reader's theatre that is a retelling of a story protected by copyright. A retelling of a story that is not in the public domain, and is still protected by copyright is considered a derivative work. Reader's theatre scripts that are retellings of a story are considered derivative forms. You don't have the right to post derivative works in print or online, for free or as a paid commercial product. That's essentially plagiarism! Only the copyright holder has the right to create a derivative work. You can use a public domain story (like a fairy tale) as a reader's theatre (which is really a play, but that's another blog post for another day). 
  • And a bigger sticky one: You cannot use anything that is trademarked without the express written permission of the trademark holder, including Daily Five, anything Dr. Seuss (even the word "Grinch" is trademarked), Disney, Pete the Cat, Rovio, Angry Birds, The Daily Cafe, and Thinking Maps. I think you get the picture. If it's under trademark, you can't create free or paid resources in association with it without permission. This includes making a hand drawn (or computer drawn) picture of the Grinch or Mickey Mouse to hang in your own classroom. I know...ouch!
  • You can create (to give away or sell) literature units (original materials based on the book), as long as you don't violate the copyright of the book (like copy large chunks of text, or include whole text in your materials). The exception is books with trademarked titles or characters (like Dr. Seuss and Pete the Cat).


1 comment:

  1. Very clear and helpful information. I'm sharing this post. And just as a side note, when I was in college a professor told us about a school district that created hand drawn images of Disney characters to decorate the school for Grandparents day. One of the grandparents was a CEO for a Disney company. He reported the school. I don't think he was trying to be a jerk, he said he had to or he would have lost his job. I'm sure that would have been awkward and could have been avoided if the teachers had taken time to know the rules!

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