Homeschooling and copyright laws has been a hot topic lately. Many homeschool families are one income families with a stretched budget already. It can be hard to stretch it further in order to purchase homeschool curriculum for your family. Reusing curriculum, sharing curriculum with other homeschool families, and reselling curriculum are all ways that can help you to save money or stretch your homeschool dollar, but how do you know when this is OK to do?
Although there are some general "rules" you can follow, the best thing to do is to check each companies copyright policy before you purchase from that company. Especially if you plan on using it with multiple children, or reselling. If you cannot find a copyright policy on their website or catalog, email or call the company to find out.
Some general rules (but remember to check with the publisher first):
Computer software, ebooks, PDF downloads, audiobooks,or other digital files cannot be resold or shared with other households. This includes curriculum in the form of computer software. Two popular examples that cannot be sold are Switched on Schoolhouse and Rosetta Stone. Even free PDF files that you download should not be printed out and shared. You can, however share the original link to the company you found it from so others can download their own. Many companies do allow you to print multiple copies of downloads for use within your own family, or allow multiple users on computer software.
Consumable workbooks cannot be copied or resold. Workbooks are intended to be used by one child. You cannot copy even within your own family. I used to think it was OK to have my children do work on a piece of paper and then either reuse, or sell the workbook. After doing my own research on copyright laws, I no longer believe that to be true. If you use the workbook in any way, it is used even if it has not been written in.
Textbooks, and Teacher's Guides can be used multiple times, shared with other homeschooling families, and resold.
If you were using a curriculum like Math U See, the Teacher's Manual and DVD can be used with multiple children or resold when you are finished. The Student Text has to be purchased for each child that uses it.
A PDF download of a lapbook allows you to print multiple copies for your own family, but you cannot print copies for friends, or print copies to sell.
Why does paying attention to copyright laws matter? Some people might say it matters because many companies are homeschooling families themselves and are trying to make a living. This is often true. Some might say it matters because publishers work hard to make curriculum and we need to respect them and their efforts by following the laws. And we should. Some will argue that these laws do not matter and once they purchase something, they should be able to do whatever they want with it. This is not true. By purchasing from a company you are agreeing to abide by their copyright laws. My personal opinion is that we are commanded to "Love the Lord your God with all heart and with all your soul and with all your mind", and to, "Love your neighbor as yourself." We need to respect copyright laws because by doing so, we are obeying God and loving our neighbor. We are also abiding by the things we try to teach are children like not to lie, cheat, or steal. This is why we need to be diligent, and to find out the laws so we can do the right thing and teach our children to as well.
Money is a concern for homeschooling families, but you can be mindful of copyright laws and be a frugal homeschooler. If you need to use something with more than one child, don't purchase materials that does not allow this. Find and buy from companies that allow for copying within your families. To save printing costs buy a laser printer, or if you have an iPad or other tablet, have your child do their written work on it. Instead of using workbooks, have your children answer questions orally with you reading aloud from a Teacher's Manual. When you need to use workbooks (like Math) buy from a company whose newer workbooks are compatible with older Teacher's Manuals so all you need to buy each year is the workbook. Purchase used curriculum that is allowed to be resold. Sell your curriculum that is allowed to be resold to buy next year's curriculum. Share books that can be shared with other homeschooling families. If there are several families interested in the same curriculum, check into a co-op license and divide the cost.