Your self-published textbook
generates recurring sales revenue
from campus bookstores each
semester. A college instructor
begins moonlighting, and uses
your curriculum outside the
classroom for training and
consulting assignments, for
which he is paid a hefty fee.
Your intellectual property was
not intended to be used this way. How
would you handle this situation?
I don’t have any
problem with what
the instructor charges
for the class, as long as
students are purchasing my textbook. But if
they’re not purchasing
the text (unauthorized
or otherwise), I would
contact the instructor
through a lawyer and
ask him/her to cease
and desist using my
materials for personal gain. Frankly, I think
this happens a lot on
college and university
campuses, under an
First, I would trademark and copyright
everything. Then, I’d ask
the instructor to cease
using my intellectual
property. If he doesn’t
comply, I’d get my legal
counsel involved—as a
last resort. If he is making a lot of money on
my intellectual property, I would propose
a license agreement.
If someone is making
money on your material, you should be compensated for it.
—Ron Karr, CSP,
While my thoughts are from a legal perspective, they are not offered as legal advice, but as general principles of law. First, i’d encourage the self-published author to consult with a lawyer about
the specific facts of her case. Then, i’d ask three questions:
1. What year was the book published?
2. Was the copyright notice symbol prominently placed in the
book? While no longer mandatory, the presence of the copyright notice symbol (e.g., copyright 2008 John doe) sends the
message that you claim ownership in the work. second, and
more important, if the book was published before march 1,
1989, and did not have the notice symbol, it lost its protection
and went into the public domain.
3. Was the book registered with the copyright office? While not
required, there are many benefits to copyright registration, including, but not limited to, the right to sue an infringer. Without
a registration, you can’t sue!
“Protecting” valuable intellectual property is the name of the
game. it’s essential to make it as important as creating, marketing
and selling product. Because if the work isn’t protected, there may
be little you can do to stop an infringer.
i would communicate directly
with the instructor and find out
exactly what he is doing, his intentions, if he understands that
this is my intellectual property,
and get a sense if he was purposely and deceitfully using
my material, or if he doesn’t understand it’s unethical. i would
state my concerns, share our
policies and make the rules
clear to him; for example, what
i expect to be paid, written permission requirements, etc. if he
insists on continuing this practice, i would call my lawyer.
—Karen Friedman, Blue Bell, Pa.