How to avoid violating copyright in your yearbook

This time of year can feel like pure chaos. You’re in the thick of distributing yearbooks (and all the crazy that comes with that), wrapping up the year, starting to plan for next year, and looking forward to sweet, sweet summer that’s just around the corner. 

As you and your students begin to brainstorm next year’s theme – be sure to steer them FAR away from anything that may be copy written material. Every year we see content in yearbooks (even whole themes) that violate copyright – and it can be a costly mistake. 

Publishers do their best to catch potential copyright issues and deny production, but violations can slip through. Ultimately, as yearbooks and school newspapers/newsmags are student publications, the onus of responsibility is on the students (and you, their teacher) to avoid copyright violations. 

Talk to your staff NOW about how to avoid copyright violations, so they don’t waste time dreaming up an awesome Disney theme, just to have their hearts broken in the fall once they realize it can’t happen. 

Here are a few common yearbook themes that I personally would err on the side of caution and avoid due to potential copyright violations:

  • Disney/Netflix or any streaming service
  • Any tv show/movie
  • Spotify/Apple Music
  • Dr. Seuss/other children’s book author’s style

Download this quick checklist to help you determine if an idea would be considered “fair use” to publish in your school publication. 👇🏻

What about Creative Commons? 
You may have heard about using photos with a “Creative Commons” license, or finding a photo from the “public domain.” Students need to know that any work under a Creative Commons licenses requires the attribution of the owner, while any work under the Public Domain licenses does not require any attribution or credits to the owner.
However, to be safe, students should not rely on fair use exceptions or assume a work is in the public domain. Instead, it is best to seek permission to use all creative works.
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