Humans love creating things. We write, draw, paint, play music, shoot movies, and code computer programs. Imagine painting a beautiful landscape. Purple mountains rise to the sky, and sunlight glitters on a lazy river wandering through golden wheat fields. Now imagine walking through a department store and noticing framed prints of your painting being offered for sale. If you had not given permission for a company to make those prints, how would you feel?
An author writes a manuscript and contracts with a publisher to polish the work and distribute it as a book for sale. Someone who buys the book is free to do many things with it: read it, take it apart and rebind it, even rip out pages to make beautiful decorations. Whether copying pages is allowed, however, is determined solely by the copyright owner.
Simply put, “copyright” means the right to make copies. According to current United States law, ownership of a copyright is automatically granted to the creator upon finishing a work for publication. “Publication” is letting other people see it, including showing friends, pitching it to a company as a potential product, posting it online, passing out print-outs, or offering it for sale. The work does not have to have the © symbol with a name or date anywhere on it. Most books, however, have a copyright page which specifies who owns the copyright and whether copying is permitted. A copyright owner can choose to register it for a work with the United States Copyright Office. Registration gives the owner additional legal legitimacy and strength in a court of law.
At Demme Learning, our printed books contain the following statement:
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without prior written permission from Demme Learning.
The statement is similar to many other publishers’ copyright statements. The statement is legally binding, and it is against the law to violate it. Notice, however, that copying might be allowed by Demme Learning if a customer makes a reasonable request.
Sometimes people think that they can photocopy educational materials once they buy them or that they can copy any materials as long as they are used in an educational setting. These are common misconceptions. Unless permission is explicitly granted in the copyright statement, the “default setting” for all books published in the United States after 1978 is “no copying allowed.” Teachers do have some exemptions so that they can spontaneously supplement their curriculum with a timely item such as a short poem, brief article, excerpt of a story, or chart. These exemptions do not include copying books intended to be “consumable,” including workbooks and test booklets. Copying a significant amount of a book in order to avoid purchasing the book is also prohibited regardless of the setting.
DVDs and online videos are also copyrighted works. Our copyright policy for DVDs is that they are not to be duplicated without prior written permission from Demme Learning. Think of the DVD as being like a book. Copying a book, keeping one copy, and giving the other to someone else is not okay. Similarly, copying files from the DVD to a device and then lending, selling, or giving the DVD to someone else is violating the copyright.
Copyright laws and the restrictions of copyright statements are in place for good reasons. A copyright recognizes and rewards the hours of time invested and the creative genius that produced the work. Choosing to ask for permission before copying a work shows respect for both the law and the author.
For further reading, consider consulting the following resources from the U.S. Copyright Office: