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Q

How does intellectual copyright law affect me as a homeschooler?

A

It is our desire to serve the homeschooling community in the best and most efficient way possible. More companies are selling digital products, and more homeschoolers are using electronic devices to access these. While companies use different software, they all desire to protect their material (and thus their livelihood) inasmuch as possible so that they can continue to serve their community. Many Christian homeschoolers, who want to do right in the eyes of God and their fellow humans, do not rightly understand the relationship between respecting copyright laws, obeying God, and keeping alive the homeschool providers they most respect. Thus, we offer this primer:

There are three basic types of intellectual property: patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Below we give a brief definition for each, but please be aware that there are many more details for each than we mention below; thus we provide links in case you are interested in such details.

  • Patent laws cover inventions. It is a property right for an invention granted by a government to the inventor. A United States patent gives inventors the right "to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention throughout the United States or importing their invention into the United States for a limited time" (see more/cite: [here].) Inventions that homeschooling companies patent should be respected as a matter of obedience and faith (and not pirated or shared without compensating such inventors). We, at Lampstand Press, hold no patents currently.
  • Copyright gives creators of written, visual, musical, or performing arts ownership rights. Such works cannot be patented, but copyright law gives specific legal rights to authors, musicians, playwrites, and performers. (See more on this [here]). Tapestry of Grace products are all copyrighted, which simply means that you cannot legally or morally share them by any means without expressed, written permission from Lampstand Press.
  • There are some things that cannot be patented or copyrighted, such as titles, characters in books, color schemes, and so on--which leads to trademarks. These are important to companies because brand names carry reputations: you know what kind of room you'll get at a Hyatt Hotel vs. a Holiday Inn. With Tapestry of Grace, we work hard to produce high quality, helpful materials, and we want those who purchase products with our name brand to be well served, and "get what they pay for." If vendors randomly associate themselves with our name, or create "helps" and call them Tapestry products, confusion and deterioration of our hard-earned reputation can ensue, diminishing our ability to serve the community.

American law "pays" inventors, authors, and artists for their labors with these three forms of intellectual property. Most homeschoolers respect such property, but sometimes get confused by two complicating factors of intellectual property law--derivative works and the fair use doctrine.

  • Derivative works are creations that are inspired by, or based upon, existing work. For example, a stage play based on the Chronicles of Narnia might not "copy" a single sentence from C. S. Lewis' original novels, but it would still be a "derivative work." Distribution (whether for free or for profit) of a derivative work requires the permission of an author or publisher.
  • Many homeschoolers make quizzes, extra worksheets, map labels, etc. to use for themselves. These are derivative works (subject to copyright) but fall within the "fair use exception," which allows a limited amount of noncommercial use for purposes such as education. A derivative work which might be perfectly appropriate for your own use in your own home would cross the "fair use" line if you were to sell it or distribute it in such a way that it reduces sales of the underlying copyrighted work. (This area of the law is highly interpretive; you can read more about this [here]). For those who wish to use only parts of Tapestry of Grace products in class (or co-op) settings, we have provided economical licenses. We do also allow group teachers to print extensive portions of Tapestry products for greater ease of use, as long as each family owns a copy or has a license.

Why are we going through these definitions with you? Because many authors and musicians are concerned about the direction that our general society is headed with cultural attitudes towards "sharing" that have been heightened by the ease with which digital materials are transmitted. The increasingly common view in America today is that digital materials should be free, or at least freely shared (since it's so easy, apparently costs the publisher "nothing," and will help others out). Even among Christians, there is an increasingly serious disconnect between our obedience to the law, the economics of producing and supporting digital materials, and the ease with which digital materials can be accessed and/or shared. Thus do homeschoolers frequently cross a legal line which can easily put small businesses, which most curriculum providers and Christian musicians are, at risk. For more on this, please read this article: [Ending Copyright Infringement].

At Lampstand Press, we understand that most homeschooling parents who cross the legal lines outlined above do so unwittingly; most moms are usually attempting to be kind by sharing or giving away our materials, or by creating and distributing derivative works without our permission (typically via Yahoogroup file sharing). When we give a courtesy call to alert them to a transgression, most moms are horrified to realize the line they've crossed. We praise God for such tender hearts! But we have also been dismayed when we increasingly get responses to our gentle reminder that DE copies are not legally allowed to be resold, "I don't care. I'm going to do it anyways. It's mine." Our hope is that this is a misunderstanding; hence the second segment of this two-part article.

Our mission is to serve the homeschooling community with excellent educational materials and methods, and we always work hard to balance generosity with protecting our intellectual property. As with many liberties, we simply must protect our rights in order to continue to serve: to pay our staff to maintain and improve Tapestry for the benefit of all, and to maintain our integrity by keeping the promises made to our contributors. Our desire to bless the needy is shown by our Heirloom Program, that provides discounts on our materials for financially disadvantaged families who apply, and by the extensive supportive links maintained on our website that are free and open to use by all. We also work to keep our product prices as reasonable as possible, and constantly look for ways to serve more people better.

Please know that we are also always open to customer input in the form of derivative works that they may have conceived or created for their own families. We have frequently brought such works to market: our lapbooks and our LLC online classes are examples of this openness. They started as ideas of individuals, and grew to become major products that serve many with excellence. This past summer, we mounted an entirely new group class section of our website (see it [here]) so that project pictures, written works, and documents produced by groups for co-op management might be easily seen and shared. We have also been working this year to create a new sharing center, called "Creative Contributions," where it will be easy for moms to share approved derivative works that they have come up with to benefit their own families or co-ops and now want to share with the rest of the community. This should be unveiled sometime in the spring of 2013.

If you have ideas for new products, or innovations to ones that exist, we welcome your ideas! As well, do feel free to email Dana with concerns about any of these aspects of intellectual property usage, particularly those that affect your use of Tapestry in a family or co-op setting.


Author: Alex Holt
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Why does Tapestry DE need to use LockLizard?

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