Here are a few of the most frequent questions that I am asked from buyers, and potential buyers, about my resources. Hopefully, you will find these answers helpful.
You’re working in your classroom and doing the best you can for your students on a very limited budget most likely! What’s the big deal if you take whatever you can find if it helps your students with a concept? Most of the time as a teacher you do have a lot of leeway in regards to copyright, but where is the line that changes from just trying to help, to breaking the law? As teachers, we need to be positive, ethical role models for our students and to do this we must model the best ethical practices. If we ask them not to plagiarize and cheat from the internet, we can’t be doing it either!
How can you protect yourself so that you can stay compliant and still utilize every resource you can find?
In the classroom, a teacher is generally protected by the “fair use” guidelines of copyright. Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.
From the copyright.gov site, “Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.
So while you are in the classroom with your group of students you pretty much have free rein on what you can use to help them learn concepts. This means the use of books, lyrics, videos, etc. Of course, you will want to make sure the materials you are using aren’t themselves copyright infringements. You don’t want to benefit from stolen work! Make sure you use the original source, for example, a clip from a movie that you have legally purchased vs. a pirated clip from a website or a TpT product you purchased, not one that was improperly shared around the school for free.
So where does a teacher lose that fair use?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) states that you cannot place copyrighted work on the internet where it can be shared in a google search. So it’s okay to use within the walls of your classroom, but once you start to share it on the internet you are falling into a shady gray area that could hold some fairly hefty monetary punishments.
Any site that you upload to MUST be a password-protected site. You cannot create an open teacher/classroom webpage and start placing copies of resources (textbook publisher, TpT purchases, copies of novels for students to read, song lyrics, etc) there for students to access at home unless it is password-protected. If it’s not password-protected even if you aren’t linking to the site anywhere it gets picked up in general Google searches and is then available for the world. You’ve moved from a teacher with wonderful intentions to an internet pirate!
I know that 99.9% of the teachers out there putting items on the internet have no idea that they are making them available to the world. They think they are just uploading them to their personal classroom page and that only their students and parents will ever look there. Teachers as a group are generous and honest and want to make access as easy for their students and parents as possible. Hopefully, this post will help guide you so you can stay compliant and model the best practices for your students. In this world of constant teacher bashing, we need to be cautious to keep the honesty and integrity in the industry.
There are many intellectual property considerations when entering into contracts or selling your products online. I have some advice for fellow sellers that is useful when entering into contracts and/or marketing your products. First, make sure you retain your copyrights and have the ability to enforce them by registering your copyright with the US Copyright office! You can do this online at copyright.gov for a $55 fee (this will be $65 as of 3/20/20). The application is fairly simple to complete.
Make sure you have a copyright disclaimer in all of your work. In all of my work, even my free items, I have the following on page 2 after the cover page (You may use this for your own personal use, but you are not allowed to use this in any commercial courses you sell to other sellers):
© YEAR Michelle Heisler: The Teaching Bank. All rights reserved. Purchase of this unit entitles the purchaser the right to reproduce the pages in limited quantities for classroom use only. Duplication for an entire school, an entire school system or commercial purposes is strictly forbidden without written permission from the publisher. The Teaching Bank, ADDRESS, EMAIL ADDRESS
Copying any part of this product and placing it on the Internet in any form (even a personal/classroom website) is strictly forbidden and is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These items can be picked up in a google search and then shared worldwide for free.
I have also added the FBI Piracy seal to my TOU page. You can view the information regarding the use of the seal, the requirements, and TOU here: FBI Piracy Seal Information
In addition to my TOU page I have included on every page of my products (even free ones):
© YEAR Michelle Heisler: The Teaching Bank
Having these identifiers on your products will leave no question that the work is yours and make it harder for people to outright copy things.
Perform Google searches on a regular basis for your name, store name, product names, etc. You will be amazed that even with these notices on your products many people will upload them to websites. The vast majority of infringers mean no ill will, they just don’t understand how putting a unit on their personal website or school website really gets it out there to the world through Google. The only place a file is secure online is on a password-protected site.
Find an email address for the website, the individual, the school district, etc. and email them a DMCA letter asking for it to be removed. You can find a template letter that I have used and have had success with from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J. Most people don’t honestly know they are doing wrong and immediately comply and apologize.
In addition to notifying the infringing site, it is best to notify Google as well so it is removed from their Google search function. You can do that here: Google DMCA Complaint
Laurah J, over at the Tools for Teachers by Laurah J, has a wonderful, FREE, resource in her store called, Understanding Copyright and Trademark Law: A Guide for TpT Sellers, that I highly recommend you download. It is wonderful for new and seasoned TpT sellers!
Nothing will protect you 100% from copyright infringement. There are always people or companies out there that will be willing to break the law no matter the risks, but hopefully, these things will make it more difficult and deter the people not willing to take the time. It may also help educate those out there that are truly unknowing to the law and mean no harm.