If you are using other people’s stuff in your book or on your website, first take a look at their TOU. These statements contain rules set down by copyright owners regarding the use of content. A TOU can be legally binding and shouldn’t be ignored.
TOU statements may contain the following important information regarding copyright compliance:
1. Users may or may not be allowed to use the content in the work on a website or in a book without asking permission for a specific use.
Oftentimes the limitation that accompanies the TOU grant for use without having to seek permission is a statement that the user must include a credit to the copyright owner. Failure to follow the conditions of the grant in the TOU that requires the user to credit the owner in the way specified makes their use illegal.
2. The TOU may include a statement that the material may be changed in some way or it may disallow any changes to the material.
Changing a work is making a derivative of it. Only copyright owners have the right to either change their works or to grant others the right to change their works.
3. Sometimes the TOU may include the condition that the material you wish to use may only be used for an educational purpose. In today’s contentious copyright climate where use of copyrighted works is monitored heavily and where high value is placed on educational content (You may be painfully aware of this if you have purchased a textbook recently.), it is wise to take care not to define non-profit educational use too broadly.
Copyrighted content used in a textbook that is to be sold will likely not fall under the copyright owner’s category of non-profit educational use. Use of copyrighted works on a website that purports to be “educational,” but really is focused on selling services or products is likely to fall in the owner’s “for-commercial-use” category.
An example of a site that does not allow for commercial or educational use on another site is hosted by AALL CARE in Home Services. This site’s TOU statement allows you to only make a single copy of the material for your personal, noncommercial use. The TOU also states that use of the content on any other website is prohibited. By contrast, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research allows for “non-commercial, non-profit research, or educational purposes only.”
If your site is a commercial site (for example, if you are selling books or services), you cannot use the content taken from either of these sites. And often even an educational use is allowed only if the copyright notice appears along with a notice that those reading the new use of the borrowed content cannot copy it and use it themselves for commercial purposes.
It’s easy to see how ignorance of an owner’s TOU can lead to illegal use of copyrighted material. Check back next week for a discussion on protecting your own work through TOUs.
Want More About Copyright Law?
Order your copy of Copyright Clearance for Creatives for a basic overview of copyright law and essential guidelines on when, how, and where to get permission to use copyright content in your works.