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Intellectual property questions, re supplemental materials

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I have a few questions about intellectual property issues relating to homeschool materials. :)


1) What, if any, are the legal issues with creating and sharing supplemental teaching materials that are intended to be used alongside an existing curriculum? For example, someone might develop a set of lesson plans that don't reproduce the text itself, but just give page or chapter numbers with teaching and enrichment suggestions. Or they might make a set of puzzles or activity sheets that follow the sequence in which words or concepts are introduced in the curriculum. Is it okay to distribute these for others to use?


2) Does it make a difference if these materials are sold, vs. given away free of charge?


3) Does it make a difference if the company already sells a similar product? For instance, say they have a deck of flash cards for $10, but you don't like the format, because it's too big/small/cluttered/whatever. So you make your own -- not copying theirs, but just using the words from the book. Is it okay to share the PDF, so others can print their own?



Thank you in advance for any help. I find this sort of thing very confusing.

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From what I know it is part of fair use law to be able to write/create things about another work. That's completely legal for both sale and free distribution.


One should be careful about copying other texts, but using similar themes, terms, or texts is fine. Just attribute things where they are due.

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What I've generally done is to offer my materials to the company to put on their website if I'm very proud of them. Most will, happily. Or, if the company has a discussion board, I'd post the materials there, since that gets them to people that are using the curriculum.

This is a good idea, but I'm not sure if it would work for some of the things I'm thinking about.


For instance, I've been putting together a set of lesson plans that tie multiple textbooks and other resources together, with seasonal and thematic activities for different ages worked in. (Sort of like MFW, but entirely different. ;) ) If I were to share these, some people might decide to buy a textbook that wasn't previously on their radar screen, in order to take advantage of the lesson plans. OTOH, some people who were already planning to use that textbook might choose to forego buying the publisher's supplemental materials, feeling that they didn't need them.


It's pretty hard to predict how it would work out. Especially because I haven't written more than 1% of the lesson plans yet, and haven't even finalized the curriculum choices. :tongue_smilie:

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