Should You Copyright Your Contract and Policies?

Once a family child care provider has written her contract and policies, how can she protect herself against someone stealing it for their own use?

9771579591_2556f67699_zCopyright law gives protection to the original authors of written works. In addition to protecting your contract and policies (or parent handbook), it can also protect a curriculum you have written, lesson plans, marketing materials, and so on.

Here are the basics of copyright law.

Anything that you write is given automatic copyright protection as soon as you write it. It isn’t necessary to put “(c)” or “copyright” on your document to get this protection.

In other words, if someone starts using your policies without your permission, you can force them to stop by going to small claims court and presenting evidence that you are the author.

However, to discourage anyone from copying your materials you can put the following notice at the bottom of the first page of your contract or policies:

“(c) 2015 by _____________ (your name). To reproduce this document you must receive written permission in advance from __________ (your name).”

If someone tries to copy your materials without your permission, you can stop her if you can prove that you were the original author; for example, by showing a copy of your contract or policies that was signed by one of your clients before the other person started using it.

If you want more protection for your documents, you can register your copyright with the federal government. This establishes that you are the author without having to prove it in court. Visit the Library of Congress copyright office at www.copyright.gov. They have an excellent publication called Copyright Basics.

Update:

Facebook reader Debbie Moore makes a good point when she says that many family child care providers freely share their contracts & policies and never worry about copyright. Sharing these documents can help other providers build a stronger relationship with their clients and help avoid misunderstandings.

I think it’s a good idea for providers to help each other out, and sharing contracts and policies is one way to do this. If you so, do not share your rate information as that can be considered price fixing. See my article: “Can You Legally Discuss Your Child Care Rates?”

Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melenita/

Contracts & Policies bookFor more information see my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies.



Categories: Contracts & Policies

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