There are many intellectual property considerations when entering into contracts or selling your products online. I’ve got some tips for fellow sellers that prove handy in contract negotiations and promoting your merchandise. First things first, safeguard your copyrights and ensure your capacity to defend them by officially registering them with the US Copyright Office! Head over to copyright.gov where, for a $65 fee, you can swiftly complete the application process online.

Within your Products:

Ensure each of your works includes a copyright disclaimer. In all my creations, including those offered for free, I insert the following on page 2, right after the cover page: :

© YEAR Michelle Heisler: The Teaching Bank. All rights reserved. Purchase of this unit entitles the purchaser to 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.

*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.

Additionally, I’ve included the FBI Piracy seal in my Terms of Use (TOU) page. You can find detailed information about the seal’s use, requirements, and the TOU here: FBI Piracy Seal Information.

Alongside my Terms of Use (TOU) page, I’ve integrated the following identifier onto every single page of my products, including the free ones:

© YEAR Michelle Heisler: The Teaching Bank

Incorporating these identifiers across your products eliminates doubt about ownership and creates a barrier against replication.

After Publication:

Regularly conduct Google searches using your name, store name, and product names. You’ll be surprised to find instances where, despite these notices on your products, people still upload them to various websites. Most infringers aren’t malicious—they often don’t realize that posting a unit on their personal or school website exposes it globally through Google. The only secure online location for a file is on a password-protected site.

Once you identify the website, individual, or school district, seek out their email address and send a DMCA letter requesting the removal of the content. You can access a template letter that I’ve used successfully on Tools for Teachers by Laurah J. Many individuals, once informed, comply and apologize promptly as they might not have been aware of their mistake.

Aside from notifying the infringing site, it’s advisable to inform Google for the removal of the content from their search function. You can take this action here: Google DMCA Complaint.

Other Resources:

Check out the excellent free resource by Laurah J at Tools for Teachers by Laurah J: “Understanding Copyright and Trademark Law: A Guide for TpT Sellers.” I highly suggest downloading this guide—it’s beneficial for both new and experienced TpT sellers!

No strategy guarantees 100% protection from copyright infringement. There will always be individuals or entities willing to disregard the law despite the consequences. However, these measures can make it more challenging and dissuade those who aren’t prepared to invest the effort. They might also serve as a means to educate those who genuinely lack awareness of the law and have no intent to cause harm.