Copyright & TpT

Teachers over the years have often been "exempt" from copyright rules.  We often create supplemental products for our basal readers, math programs, writing programs, etc. to use in our classrooms without infringing on copyright rules.  The moment we put those items up for sale, for profit, we are often breaking the rules and therefore infringing on copyrights.

Recently I have began researching the gray world of Copyright.  You would think it would be simple black and white information, but oh how surprised I was when I discovered how complicated it really is. As educated adults we already know we can not copy something word for word and sell it on TpT as our own, but did you know that there are several items we are NOT allowed to sell on TpT?

Margaret Whisnant has a GREAT freebie for all TpT sellers, Top Copyright Questions for TpT Teacher Authors.  I read this packet and wanted to share with you some of the information I found.  I emailed Margaret and she said if we had any further questions she would be happy to help answer them.

1. You can copyright your products simply by adding a small header or footer stating your copyright information.  For example on my products I add ©I {Heart} Recess 2013

2. You can not copyright and idea or concept.  You can copyright your original work.

3. Names, titles, expressions, and short phrases are not copyrightable.  This is why you may see several "Task Cards" or "Scoot" products.

4. You can not use book covers on your products without permission from the author or whoever owns the copyright to that image.

5. Clipart:

  • MICROSOFT CLIPART is NO LONGER allowed to be included TpT products.
  • Clipart for TpT products should be for Commercial Use.  If clipart does not have a commercial use license it may then only be used for personal use.
  • Copying images from the internet to use in TpT products is copyright infringement
6. TpT has received several letters for CEASE & DESIST from several companies.  Here is a list on No-Nos:
  • Daily 5 and Cafe: a seller cannot sell items related to Daily 5 or Cafe; they CAN offer freebies but MUST INCLUDE a sentence stating the product is an unofficial adaptation and include the website for daily five.
  • Angry Birds: no products at all
  • Thinking Maps: no products at all
  • Pete the Cat: no products at all
  • Elf on the Shelf: no products at all
  • Dr. Seuss books, characters, & images: no products at all, this includes look-a-like images

These are just a FEW pieces of information I found interesting while researching TpT and copyright rules.  I highly suggest downloading Margaret's packet and read it carefully!  There is a lot more information than I have covered here.

Currently there are over 5,000 TpT products that are infringing on copyrights, I searched for items less than $5 for each of the above No-Nos.  {Please note if your products fall into that 5,000 I am not judging or calling anyone out, and nor will I ever.}  I just found it interesting that even with all of the laws and rules of copyrights people simply don't know the necessary information to ensure they aren't breaking any laws.  This is why I wanted to share what I have learned.

During my research I thought, "What about Etsy and all of their Angry Birds, Star Wars, Dr. Seuss, etc. products?  Doesn't anyone check their products?"  So far, I haven't found the answer to that question.  I do know that when we click that little box "original work"  when we upload a new product it is OUR responsibility to ensure we aren't infringing on any copyright laws, not TpT's.  

Another place I found helpful in my Copyright research was TpT's Seller Forums.  This is a great place to find information, ask questions, and seek advice when you have a question about a product you are working on.

If you are like me you now have more questions than answers!  If so please read Margaret's packet, check out the TpT Forum's, and/or ask a question below and I will send it onto Margaret to see if she can help.


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  2. Thank you for sharing this! I just read through her packet and had no idea that some of those products were not allowed. Thanks for helping to keep us informed!

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

    1. Thanks again for posting this. I spent this week looking through all of my TPT products and changed any products that had Word clipart in them(that was the one rule I had broken that I didn't know about.) I really appreciate the heads-up!

      Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  3. I knew about some of these things, but I learned some new things as well. Thanks for sharing this! I've often wondered about some products I've seen and how they're still active.

    Fifth in the Middle

  4. Thank you SO much for sharin' this. I'm off to read the packet right now!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  5. Oof, copyright is such a sticky subject. I've stopped so many projects because I wasn't sure whether I should use something or not. Thanks for all the tips.

  6. Great info to share! Thanks for doing the research and for sharing your findings.

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  7. Wow! I knew some of these but was surprised but others. Thank you for the info! I don't sell any, but I'm surprised Thinking Maps was on the list. I had no idea those were a copy writable thing.
    Polka Dot Kinders

  8. Thank you thank you thank you! The copyright thing is confusing! Since signing up with TpT I have been very hesitant to try selling anything. It seemed the only safe thing to do is to create my own graphics! I will be downloadint that packet! Paula

  9. So anyone can just put a copyright symbol on their work on TPT like that? Wow... I know very very little!! Yikes. I'm just getting started in blogosphere and on TPT, so thanks for the info!!

  10. Great info - thanks for compiling it and explaining it! :)
    I'm Lovin Lit

  11. This is one of the reasons TpT scares me. I haven't taken the plunge yet. Thanks for the information - very useful.

  12. This is great information. Thank you for posting!


  13. What a great post! Every time I create something for TPT I always worry about this - there really is SO much gray. I'm definitely going to go read that packet right now though. Thanks for sharing!

    I am your newest follower :) Come stop by if you get a chance - I'd love to hear from you!

    The Sweetest Thing
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  14. Great post!! Very informational. I have some things on TpT and almost all are free. I was interested in this information for when I do make new items to post so thanks for posting it. ~Cara Lee

    The Sweet Life of Cara Lee


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