If you think that the copyright on your book gives you sole rights to your book, you are mistaken.
The law provides for copyright exceptions. Exceptions allow for the use of a work without requesting permission from the copyright holder. There are a number of these copyright exceptions. These exceptions are frequently used by educators in teaching situations and by nonprofit organizations for people with print disabilities.
There are three major exceptions to the copyright law that are commonly used by educators: fair use, face-to-face instruction, and virtual instruction.
- Fair Use allows people to quote a book in order to review it or to publicly display a reproduction of a work to critique it.
- The Classroom Use Exemption gives instructors the right to use copyrighted material in a non-profit educational institution in face-to-face teaching activities.
- The TEACH Act creates rights for using copyrighted material in on online instruction environment, similar to using materials in a face-to-face classroom setting.
In a nutshell, these copyright exceptions mean that educators in nonprofit institutions can use portions of your book for teaching purposes without your permission.
In 1996, Congress passed the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act. This provision states “it is not an infringement of copyright for an authorized entity to reproduce or distribute copies of a previously published, nondramatic literary work if such copies are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for the use by blind or other persons with disabilities.”
One company that is using the Chafee Amendment to make books available to people with visual disabilities is Bookshare. This organization makes books available for free to any person struggling with a visual impairment, physical disability, or a severe learning disability.
Bookshare offers the world’s largest collection of accessible titles for the disabled—and this nonprofit organization does not need your permission to make your book available to qualifying individuals. However, the Chafee Amendment is only for residents of the United States. In order to make books available to people with disabilities residing outside the U.S., Bookshare must obtain permission from the copyright holder.
While Bookshare does not need your permission to utilize your book, the company partners with publishers and authors to expand their collection. If you want to donate a digital copy of your book to Bookshare, you can learn how to do that on their website at https://www.bookshare.org/cms/partners.
Knowing and understanding the strengths and limitations of copyright are important. If you have not copyrighted your book, make sure you do so through the U.S. Copyright Office.
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