An important part of being a dog obedience instructor is our written word. An effective class must include informational and lesson handouts. Part of our NADOI code of ethics states that: “I will work to train persons as competent instructors for dog obedience training classes, and towards that end will always freely exchange ideas, methods, and techniques in connection with dog obedience instruction.” Is there a fine line between sharing and the unethical use of someone else’s ideas? Read on and I will describe copyright laws, then explain how copyright laws protect us, and where you can get more information.
“Original works of authorship” are protected by copyright. This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. Copyright is provided by the United States Copyright Act. From the time you create one of the works listed above your work has copyright protection, regardless of whether it was ever published or whether it contains notice of copyright. This right is protected for as long as the writer lives, plus 50 years.
Once created all published copies should bear notice of copyright. This is not a legal requirement, but it enhances your ability to enforce your copyright. To protect your copyright, registration is not required, although it does establish public record of the copyright. A couple of advantages to registering your copyright are:
• It is necessary to register before an infringement suit can be filed in court.
• If registration is made within three months after publication or prior to infringement of the work, attorney’s fees and statutory damages are recoverable in a lawsuit.
The following three elements must be a part of each copyright notice.
- The symbol ©, the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
- The year of first publication of the work.
- The name of the copyright owner.
Here are two examples:
© 1996 Canine Potentials
Copyright 1996 Carol Cronan
You may paraphrase or quote from someone else’s published works, but you must acknowledge your source. Without this acknowledgment you are committing the unethical, and in some situations, the illegal, act of plagiarism. Paraphrasing, without permission, is okay only when the information is common knowledge in the field. Common knowledge information is readily available in reference books, handbooks, and other widely distributed material.
With full and accurate documentation of the writer’s sources, the reader is then able to find further information. The writer also avoids plagiarism by giving proper credit. To find out more about documenting sources look in one of the many style manuals that are in print. Your local librarian will help you locate what you need.
For a detailed explanation of copyright laws and more information on registration, write to the U.S. Copyright Office at: Register of Copyrights, Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20559.
Brusaw, Alred, and Oliu. Handbook of Technical Writing, Third Edition. New York. T. Martin’s Press, 1987.
Rosenbaum, David G. Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights: Practical Strategies for Protecting Your Ideas, Second Edition. Hawthorne, NJ Career Press, 1994.
©1996 Carol Cronan