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I have received requests over the last few weeks, to give some pointers to teachers on the ins and outs of getting their work published. There definitely is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. There also are some basic things that a person would need to know when persuing to have their work published. Being informed will help prevent a person from having their work stolen/infringed upon. I learned the hard way, and because of my experiences, I am a lot wiser and am in a position to protect my work a lot more effectively.

The first and probably the most important thing to know is what a copyright is, and what types of materials are copyrightable. There are a lot of misconceptions on the web that you’ve probably come across while being a member of various list servers.

The U.S. Copyright Office is the only legal body that governs copyrights. It is not a requirement to formally copyright your work in order for it to be officially copyrighted. The moment the written word is put in a particular format, it is copyrighted. It isn’t even a requirement to put the © symbol, it is just a preference that a lot of people have. The U.S. Copyright Office registers copyrights, which will be important if you ever need to take someone to court for infringement.

www.copyright.gov – The U.S. Copyright Office Website

There are different types of writings that are not copyrightable such as recipes, or ideas. What is copyrighted is the format that these will take form. For instance, if you were to create a recipe book, the actual recipes would not be copyrightable but the format of the book (layout) would be copyrightable. Ideas are also not copyrightable – but you can get a pattent for an idea that you believe is original.

What is Fair Use? The Doctrine of Fair Use is a document that extends certain permissions to use copyright protected materials. You may have come across list servers for instance that use copyright protected materials, whole books sometimes are transmitted with a far reaching explanation that the material was being used in an educational setting, or that no profit was being made off of the material. The problem is that the person or persons who post the material does not have a clear understanding of what Fair Use is, and why copying copyright protected materials is wrong.

The Doctrine of Fair Use has a specific guideline to follow to determine whether a specific use of the material is legal (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html).

The purpose of the use – whether it’s for commercial or educational purposes, nature of the copyrighted materials, amount of material used, and effect on the overall market for the copyright protected materials are some of the considerations that determine “Fair Use.”

An example of Fair Use: Copying off and using 1 page of a book/publication to reinforce an activity, project, with an appropriate citation to the source. The page would be distributed to students in your class/program.

An example of Copyright Infringement: Scanning a whole book, or parts of a whole book, with the intent to mass distribute on a list server.








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