Copyright and trademark are very important to understand. Familiarize yourself with these laws before you create any product for Teachers Pay Teachers. This will alleviate a lot of headaches in the future, because there is nothing worse than receiving a cease and desist letter for violating copyright or trademark.
(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but this is what I have learned. Feel free to write a comment below if you have anything you want to add to this topic.)
What is copyright and trademark?
Copyright is the ownership of a specific body of work. It is the protection given to the original creator of the work, when the work is created. (A few examples: books, dvds, songs, etc.)
Trademark is word, symbol, phrase, design or combination that identifies where the item came from. Many companies will file for trademarks on specific words. (For example Minions, Disney, Coca Cola, Frozen etc.)
6 Common Misconceptions:
1) Other sellers are selling copyright or trademarked resources on Teachers Pay Teachers; I can too. You can not use copyright or trademarked items in your resources, because it is in violation of the law. The seller may have gotten specific permission to use the trademarked or copyrighted material. You will have to get permission if you want to use these types of items in your resources too.
2) The clip art doesn’t look exactly like the character that means I am okay. As long as someone can look at the clip art, and tell you what it is, then you are in violation. Also, when you use a similar character you are still referring to that character by its name. The name you are using would be trademarked. For example, you use a Minion like character, and call it a Minion. In this example two violations are occurring. First, the character can be identified as a Minion. Second, the trademarked name is being used.
3) I am using the resource for teaching. I can use anything if it is for teaching. If you are making a profit or using the resource to promote your store you have to follow copyright and trademark laws. Fair use for education only refers to your own personal use. Your resources are commercial use resources, and not solely for your own personal use.
4) It is okay, because it is listed as a free resource in my store. I am not making money off of the resource. If you have copyright or trademarked items in your free resources this is not okay. These resources are promoting your store. Your free resource allows people to find your store. They also might be purchasing other resources because they found your free resource.
5) A Teachers Pay Teachers clip artist is selling the clip art. It must be okay for me to use. If you buy clip art with trademark or copyright items this doesn’t mean you can use the images. You are violating copyright or trademark laws if you don’t get permission to use copyright or trademarked work.
6) There is no copyright information associated with the work. This means the work is okay for me to use. This is also untrue. Works are protected when they are created. You would have to get permission by the owner to use their work. When in doubt it is always best to ask.
Other things to remember:
Below are a few other tips to help you before you start creating resources.
Remember that words, symbols, etc can be trademarked. This is important when making your product. You can not use certain words if they are trademarked in the area you are selling resources in. Do your research if you are unsure if certain things are trademarked.
One area of confusion occurs with Creative Common images. The share alike license can be easily misinterpreted. Creative Commons images with the share alike clause are typically not okay to use. Share alike means that when the image is included in a product the product must be shared the same way as the original work. If the image was free, which is generally the case for Creative Commons work, the product you create must also be free.
What can I use for images or clip art?
Don't get discouraged. There are plenty of great images and clip art you can use for your Teachers Pay Teachers resources. In my resources I have been able to find quality images by following the guidelines below.
1) Anything that is in the public domain is okay. When a work is in the public domain it belongs to the public and no copyright applies. This means it is free for personal or commercial use.
2) Other images or clip art you can use are ones where the creator states they are okay for Commercial use. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great place to start to find clip art and photos. If you can’t find what you need there you can try other websites like: Dollar Photo Club, and Pixabay.
How can I find if something is copyright or trademarked?
It is is important to follow copyright and trademark laws, but sometimes it is unclear what types of items fall in this category. I use two websites before I create resources. These websites are Trademarkia and U.S. Copyright.
I hope this helped answer some of the questions you may have had about copyright and trademark laws. If you have any other questions feel free to ask. Also, if you have any other tips about copyright and trademark laws please share your knowledge.