Teletherapy Materials & Copyright Laws: What You Need To Know

Teletherapy materials

After practicing speech teletherapy for over 3 years, I've learned a lot about therapy materials- how to store them, organize them, and share them. Similar to our colleagues that practice in brick and mortar (BAM) settings, who lock their office door and file cabinets before heading home, our materials must also be housed and secured properly. Why, you ask? There's a little thing called "copyright", and her sister "terms of use" that, just like a physical book or material, govern the way we use what we download.

Let's start with "copyright". According to the dictionary, copyright means "a legal right, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others." When an original piece is "copyrighted" you might see the symbol "©" on the first or final pages, or before a name. If you head to my website, you will see that symbol at the bottom of every webpage, before the name of my company. Copyright grants me the intellectual property rights to my brand, and everything that is created under its name. As the creator and author of unique content, I have protection against anyone who might choose to copy, display, or reproduce my work.

"Terms of Use" or "Terms of service" (also known as TOU) are rules which one must agree to abide by in order to use a service. You purchase something, and you agree, as the buyer, to adhere to the rules the creator has set forth when it comes to using that product or service. When you purchase my product, or read my blog, there are "rules" I have set forth regarding the ways in which you can use my original content, as protected under copyright. They are also on the final pages of every product, and on a separate page of my website. This is different for every owner or creator, depending on their preference.

Why are copyright and TOU important when it comes to teletherapy? Because GONE are the days when we have a locked, metal cabinet to safely house the books we purchased from publishers. GONE are the days where we can "lend" flashcards to a colleague for her to use a few times and give back. GONE are the days we can purchase one fabulous toy, and keep in a library for educators to "check out" for a single use and return when finished.

Before the internet, previous artists didn’t face copyright issues as frequently, as it wasn't so easy to steal and spread around someone else's work. But with the boom of the internet and digital world, there has been a surge in copyright issues faced by artists, writers, authors and photographers who publish their work online and then find it on non-authorized websites. Or, perhaps they find their works have been illegally shared with others for free. Enter the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998.

As speech teletherapists, it's very easy to download something we found on the internet, and deem it useful for therapy, even though we didn't create it, or purchase it. Likewise, it's very tempting to want to help our colleagues by sharing something amazing we purchased because it helps our entire community. Many of us are unfamiliar with the laws and rules that currently govern things we find on the internet, or, can legally share with others. Enter the world of Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), and the waters continue to get even more muddy.

So, let's start here. What CAN do you under the DCMA and copyright laws?

1) Use a Google image you find with an individual student to demonstrate a vocabulary word.

2) Purchase an entire eBook from a publisher and use it online with the clients on your caseload.

3) Break down an eBook into smaller sections for ease of use with students, to safely store on your flash drive or hard drive.

4) Send single pages, worksheets or a few flashcards to parents or teachers you find useful for homework.

5) Create unique content using images you find online for therapy/educational use only.

6) Share a blog post you love with friends via link, that might help them in therapy or with a particular student.

7) Share links to materials you love for your colleagues to browse themselves!

What CAN'T you do under copyright and DCMA laws?

1). Share an entire eBook, set of digital flashcards or TpT materials with colleagues or friends who didn't individually purchase those items themselves, across the internet. Even if they were free.

2) Store materials in a Google Drive/Cloud library for the public (or friends) to access whenever they want, for use, download or copying.

3) Sell unique materials that you have created using images found online without permission from the photographer, clip artist or author.

4) Scan photos, test materials, or entire books for shared and/or public use.

5) Use pieces of a blog post someone else wrote, and pass it off as your own unique content for clients or your own website.

6) Share pdf downloads to colleagues via direct link. Even when free.

7) Give your log in information to a subscription website to another person to use. Especially one you have paid for.

Another tip? Always check the TOU. Every published work has one. A TOU should clearly spell out what rights you have regarding use of the product you have just purchased, and if you can distribute it.

Wonder what happens if you violate copyright or an artists TOU? Anything from fines, to take down notices, to jail. Yes, jail. You can check out details of consequences by clicking here . If interested, here's a link to another GREAT blog post by a Teachers Pay Teachers Author about the DMCA and products purchased on TpT.

To keep this complicated jargon SIMPLE, I like to think of it like this. My things, are my things. The items I've purchased, created, or use with my students daily, are MINE. I simply just don't share them with others in any way. I love to share links to my favorites. I simply don't share the product itself. Because I know I've purchased a single license only, and that's that.

I hope you have found this article useful as you build your digital toolbox of materials. For more information on copyright and TOU, simply head to the governments copyright office! You can find more information there if you'd like.

If you are looking for unique, digital materials for teletherapy use, head on over to my storefront! I've created over 100 FUN lessons for use on teletherapy platforms and iPads.

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