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What to do if you find your copyrighted material posted online

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In this day and age, in addition to speech language assessment and intervention, many speech language pathologists are engaged in a number of enterprising endeavors ranging from creating and selling therapeutic materials to public speaking and presenting. As a result of these activities we continuously create numerous digital downloads for primary (e.g., TPT materials) and secondary (handouts to accompany presentations) customer consumption. Of course in these materials we specify exactly how we want them to be used. Typically we place a number of disclaimers on the front page including:    “Do Not Copy”, “Do Not Resell”, “For Individual Use Only”, “Do not remove copyright” and so on. But what happens if these disclaimers are disregarded and you find the product you had worked so hard on for a period of days, weeks or even months, publicly posted on an ebook search engine website for all to see and download.

Think it can’t happen to you? Well, so did I until much to my surprise and dismay it happened to me! Just a few days ago I was searching for related information online when a link to my name led me to stumble upon a major ebook search website called EbooksBrowse,  which had reposted the materials to my recently presented workshop. Mind you to add insult to injury they didn’t just post one handout, they posted all three that I had created in different formats for attendees convenience.

Needless to say I wasn’t happy about that so I contacted them by pressing the “Give us Feedback” button located at the top of the page and under the subject of “Abuse” informed them that the information posted on their website was done without my consent and that it violates copyright. I also politely requested that they take down the handouts immediately.

Well, lo and behold the next day all three links to my materials were removed and the following sign was posted: “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), we have removed this url to site” .  Turns out copyright violations are very serious offenses (LOL) and most web hosts will immediately remove the information in question once they are alerted regarding the violation.

So all’s well that ends well, but the question remains: Are the scenarios like the one described above avoidable? Possibly yes, but probably no! Anytime your handouts are posted online for a period of time (whether on our own website/blog or as part of a state convention) you run the risk of aggregator websites like ‘ebookbrowse’ “picking up” the material and posting it on their website.

So how can we minimize/reduce the risk?

For starters be careful about the “temporary” freebies/files you are posting on your blog/website.  While handouts posted for a few hours/days are probably okay, any material posted for a period of weeks will probably be “picked up”. Furthermore, handouts to presentations in pdf format are much more likely to be picked then let’s say for example TPT printables since the former are viewed as “books” by the websites in question and are therefore of greater interest.

Another thing you can do is periodically take a  look at your online presence (e.g., google a string search with your name) to see in what context your name pops up and whether or not it’s ‘attached’ to any handouts such as last year’s state speech pathology convention.

If you see any of your work posted online without your permission promptly contact the site’s author and ask him/her to remove the material in question. If that doesn’t work and the author refuses to take it down, email the web host and inform them of the violation.

Remember while Copyright is Secured Automatically Upon Creation (pg. 3), there are, however, some advantages to copyright registration (pg. 7).  For more information see Copyright Basics from and have fun creating!


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