Teachers and copyright

Not long ago a teacher on a list serve that I belong to raised concerns about some of her colleagues whom she felt may be crossing copyright laws.  This was my response:

As an author, I’m thrilled when teachers find my books useful in a classroom setting. I’ve seen such creative teaching strategies over the years…from found poems using phrases from a book typed and put into a basket for children to choose and piece together, to new stories being written from the point of view of one of my characters, to a story being read with a student-created soundscape reflecting the setting.  I don’t object to my words being copied for this sort classroom use. In fact, I applaud it.

However, like many other authors, I draw the line at copying for the purposes of income.  If you are making money using my work, you are infringing on my copyright.  I also object to copying a book electronically so that additional purchases are not necessary.  I’ve seen some of my picture books scanned and read to an entire school so that a library only need purchase one copy.  While I understand that libraries are being squeezed, this approach really hurts creators.  Most people are not aware how little authors and illustrators make (5% each of the retail sale price of a book).  We have to sell a lot of books to earn a living, and if you copy  our work, we aren’t even making that small amount.  Writers and illustrators want to write more books for you and your students to enjoy. Please let these teachers know that our work is our livelihood. We can only continue to create if we can earn a living doing it.

Thanks for listening to my rant.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thegracefuldoe
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 16:14:00

    This is an interesting topic for me, being both a teacher AND an author. I can see both sides of the coin. On the one hand, as an author I want to sell books, but on the other I know how hard it is for teachers to be able to spend the money they would like on books because they have a tight budget. In many cases teachers would LOVE to be able to buy more copies of the book, but it is just not a possible option, so they photocopy what they can to stretch the budget. In my opinion, I think this is a good thing, because children are then exposed to books they would otherwise not be exposed to (due to the limited budget). And if the kids love the book enough, they may then ask their parents to buy their very own copy for home.


    • sherylbooks
      Jan 25, 2012 @ 16:37:51

      Thanks for your comment. I understand where you’re coming from, as I have a teaching background myself. While I agree that exposing kids to books is important, I believe that we won’t have much to expose them to if creators can’t earn a living. I’ve been to too many schools who have limited budgets for books, but have big technology budgets. The school who copied one of my books showed it to students on whiteboards which were in every classroom…that could have bought a whole lot of books. I realize this isn’t always the case, but it is a situation I’ve seen too often.


  2. Beth Stilborn
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 15:58:02

    Sheryl, thank you SO much for this thoughtful and impassioned plea about copyright. Copyright is something I feel very strongly about, and in fact, I’m planning a series of posts on copyright and blogging for the near future. May I share this post on the two writer’s Facebook groups that I belong to? And may I link to the post in my upcoming copyright series?


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