Episode 60: TpT Copyright Questions

First I must say that I am not a lawyer and you should be very careful when you are using other people’s work.  You can consult a lawyer or look up questions you have online.  I am talking about copyright because it is a huge question in the TpT world.  This is meant to be an introduction to how to follow copyrights and terms of use. It was overwhelming for me last year.  Here’s an introduction that is hopefully easy to understand,

There are so many talented teachers selling resources on TpT, but not every seller is following copyright laws.  As educators, we are used to being allowed to use all sorts of resources and copyrighted material in the classroom without any problems or questions.  The reason we can do that is that there are allowances in the law that allow teachers the freedom to use all sorts of copyrighted material.  We want children to learn so we have been given the right to teach them using basically everything.

However, when you enter the TpT world you need to be much more careful of what materials and names you use and how.  

Terms of Use is the agreement between a service provider and the user.  If you do this then you can use this.  You should have a terms of use in all your products.  You also need to read the terms of use for any clip art, frames, or digital paper you use.  And if you use TpT resources in your classroom then you need to be sure you read those terms of use also.

Copyright applies to both published and unpublished works.  Its purpose is to protect all forms of intellectual property.  You can’t use what someone else creates and they can’t use your creations without permission.  

Copyright.gov says, “A trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.”  When you think about big brands – like Nike, Disney, Target and their symbols and slogans you know them well and you can’t use them.   I think this quote sums it up pretty well.  You can’t use trademarked material without permission. Some trademarks that are definitely not allowed to be used are Pete the Cat, Disney, and Dr. Suess.  I have heard these companies are looking online for people who violate their trademarks.  There are many more too.

If you are using clipart or digital paper from TpT you need to be sure that it’s okay to use it for commercial use.  This means that you need to read the terms of use for anything you want to use.  Usually TpT creators ask that you give them credit by putting their logo and a link in your product.  

As a TpT author you must make sure that you are not using copyright material in your products.  If you plan to create math lessons that work alongside a particular curriculum you can’t take content from that curriculum unless you have permission. If you are creating reading comprehension questions you can’t put a passage from a book in your product unless you have permission.  You need to write your own passage or hire someone to do it.   You have to be careful to follow the rules.

I think the biggest problem I see on TpT is when people use Disney or Harry Potter or other trademarked brands as part of their products.  It’s hard for TpT to keep up with everything, but using trademarked material could get you in trouble.  Be careful what you choose to do.

Again I want to state that I am not a lawyer or expert in copyright law.  This is an introductory understanding of what copyright, terms of use, and trademark is.  If you want a simple explanation to help you get started hopefully this is a good starting point for you.

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