Are You Committing Copyright Infringement and Don't Even Know It?

With Read Across America quickly approaching I wanted to quickly remind everyone that Dr. Seuss is a no-no when it comes to creating products, so are the words "Read Across America".  If you do create these types of products you are selling them at your own risk.  I LOVE Dr. Seuss, it's my classroom theme and was the theme of my baby's nursery and 1st birthday.  I just would hate to see anyone get into a sticky situation.  I am reposting my "Copyright & TpT" post from July in case anyone wanted more copyright information.  {Please note I am not the "copyright police", I just truly believe many people do not know the following information.} 

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.


  1. Thanks for the tips Jess! I'd rather be safe than sorry! How do you know there are over 5,000 products that are infringing on copyright? I see LOTS of products with book covers on them. I'm surprised authors wouldn't like that FREE advertising on the product, so more people will buy their book!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

    1. I searched each infringement (ex. typed in Dr. Seuss) and totaled up the numbers. I agree with the book covers! Who doesn't love free advertisement. There are some sellers who do get permission to use the covers, but most probably don't.

  2. Great tips! I'm just getting my feet wet with TpT. I have tried to be cautious about what I create. I certainly don't want to break any rules or laws! Thanks for sharing them!

  3. This is pretty much the reason why I've been too scared to create anything! I'd hate to be stuck after accidentally breaking copyright! Thanks
    Learning to be awesome

  4. Thanks for this valuable information! It is a great reminder of the do's and don'ts.


  5. I have a few freebies that use Microsoft clip art. I guess I better change these. Thanks for the information.

  6. Thanks for the reminders! I'm checking my products to make sure they're safe.


  7. Thanks! This is very helpful. Copyright stuff can be very confusing and overwhelming, but I feel like you laid it out very nicely :)

  8. Great reminders! I am amazed by how many items are breaking copyright laws!

  9. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this! I'm going to share your post on my blog to hopefully get the word out as much as possible!

  10. Jess,

    Regarding Thinking Maps, if a brainstorming circle is used with the topic in a smaller circle inside, is that copyright infringement if it is NOT called a circle map. Are sellers not allowed to use the shapes to create brainstorming maps? I just want to be clear. I like to include graphics for brainstorming and don't want this to bite me. Thanks so much for your post!

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