Articles and Publications


Are you in possible legal danger with your print materials?

Many therapists copy materials to aid in client education without realizing that they are violating copyright law. If it looks copyrighted, assume it is. This applies to pictures and cartoons as well. The "fair use" doctrine allows limited reproduction of copyrighted works for educational and research purposes. The relevant portion of the copyright statute provides that the "fair use" of a copyrighted work, including reproduction "for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research" is not an infringement of copyright.

Unfortunately, many therapists take this to mean that they can copy short sections of books or magazine articles to give to clients or use as handouts in workshops or free presentations. This is usually not the case.

Quite a few schools have also misinterpreted the statement of "multiple copies for classroom use" thinking it gives them carte blanche to copy pages out of books. For instance, a federal appeals court recently decided an important copyright fair use case involving coursepacks in Princeton University Press, v. Michigan Document Services. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit concluded that the copying of excerpts from books and other publications by a commercial copy service without the payment of fees to the copyright holders to create coursepacks for university students was not fair use. The size of the offending excerpts varied from 30 percent to as little as 5 percent of the original publications.

The two main objectives of copyright are to protect an author's right to obtain commercial benefit from valuable work, and to preserve the author's right to control how a work is used. Copyright law is mostly civil law. Unlike criminal law, you are not "innocent until proven guilty." Also, be aware that new laws are being enacted to move some forms of copyright violation into the criminal realm.

Fair Use Factors

The law evaluates the following factors to determine if a particular use of a copyrighted work is a permitted "fair use," or a copyright infringement:

  • The purpose and character of the use. This includes whether such use is of a commercial nature or non-profit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the copied portion in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Although all of these factors are considered, the last factor is the most important in determining whether a particular use is "fair." Where a work is available for purchase or license from the copyright owner in the medium or format desired, copying of all or a significant portion of the work in lieu of purchasing or licensing a sufficient number of "authorized" copies is presumptively unfair. Where only a small portion of a work is to be copied and the work would not be used if purchase or licensing of a sufficient number of authorized copies were required, the intended use is more likely to be fair.

Almost all things are copyrighted the moment they are written a formal copyright notice is not required. Copyright law makes it technically illegal to reproduce almost any new creative work (other than under fair use) without permission and copyright is still violated whether you charge money or not. Facts and ideas can not be copyrighted, but their expression and format can. Ask yourself why you are reprinting (or taping) those materials and why you couldn't have just recreated the material in your own words or paid for copies. Obtain permission to use the work from the copyright owner and always give proper credit.

Photocopy Request Information

Most authors/publishers will gladly give you permission to copy or excerpt material as long as it is not in conflict of a money-making venture. For instance, many therapists have a copy of a book titled The Stretching Book by Bob and Jean Anderson. They also sell a variety of adjunct items such as posters and pads of sheets with selected stretches (designed specifically for therapists to give to clients). They generally will not grant a therapist permission to copy selected stretches from the book. An example of the opposite is another book of stretches titled The Twig Unbent that is designed specifically for the practitioner to make copies for clients.

It is customary to send a request to copy a copyrighted work to the permission department of the publisher of the work. Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. will obtain permission for you (for a fee of course).

Photocopy Request Form

Permission requests should contain the following:

Title, author, or editor and edition
Exact material to be used, giving page numbers or chapters
Number of copies to be made
Use to be made of the copied materials
Form of distribution (e.g., handouts, newsletter)
If the material is to be sold

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