TPT sellers told me in the comments that the majority of sellers are only selling authentic material that they have created. However, since I posted this, every blogger that has searched Teachers Pay Teachers has found at least one person selling their copyrighted material. This is a huge problem that should be a concern for ALL teachers, especially if they are buying or selling material through TPT.
Bloggers: If you blog and create awesome math resources that you intend for other math teachers to use for FREE, then you should hop on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to make sure that there aren’t teachers trying to SELL your FREE stuff. Teachers Pay Teachers makes money off of every sale, however, they do not monitor the site to make sure the posted material is authentic. They leave that up to US with a “Report this resource” link on the page of the activity. It is so disappointing that they don’t have any preventative measures to stop this. Robert found three different sellers selling his free lesson with one keyword search. To see if your material is there, go to the site and type the name of an activity / worksheet / foldable you have created into the search engine.
Teacher Consumers: I know some teachers love the site. And I can see how it could be helpful for busy teachers. Much of the stuff on there is activity based, very “polished”, and already finished, all packaged up for you to purchase. But PLEASE, before you purchase, do a quick Google Image (or even Pinterest) search, to see if you can find the same material for FREE on a teachers blog. Even better, you can also search math ed blogs using the MTBoS Search Engine created by John Stevens! In addition to the resource being FREE, there are two other great bonuses. First, the blogger usually has the EDITABLE version in a word doc on their blog. Second, the blogger usually explains how to use the resource in detail (and pictures) and will even comment back and forth with you about the work if you have questions. And if you are on Twitter, great work is often found for FREE under the #MTBoS and #iTeachMath hashtags!
I go on the TPT site about once every six months or so, and usually find at least 2 teachers that are selling my material. I comment on their item to let them know that I created the material, it is for free on my blog, and they should not have it in their store. Then I try to find the seller on social media so I can ask them to promptly take the item down. The seller is usually apologetic, and will take it out of their store. I have had a couple of people that claimed they didn’t steal it because they added a border or changed the font. But, that is the exception. TPT now has a “Report this resource” on each activity, but since I don’t trust TPT I usually try to find the person myself, and let them know. As in, please take down my material and stop trying to make money off of teachers for stuff they could get for FREE online.
I know that it may be crazy to think that many, many, math teacher bloggers offer all of the materials that they create for FREE. Some teachers you work with may not even share their materials with you, am I right? We chose share our work freely so that we can become better, together! Publishing our work for free allows many teachers to see and comment on it, so we get great feedback. When we publish our work, other teachers often take it, tweak it, and share it back with us. And, we have usually spent much time on our work, and want to share it to benefit another overworked math teacher. We have all benefited from someone else sharing their work, and we want to pay it back!
Update: Thank you to all of the commenters! I love hearing and learning from other perspectives. Teachers have different philosophies about sharing and or selling our work, and that is ok. I do not feel that teachers should not buy or sell from TPT. I have purchased material off of TPT (My students enjoy Virge Cornelius’ Circuit Training Sheets). This post is about protecting all teachers, not accusing them. The math education community has an extensive network of teachers posting quality work for free, but I know that this is not the reality for many other disciplines. This post was a warning for bloggers and consumers. Most bloggers are not even aware that their work could be for sale on the site. And I think it is important to warn anyone, especially hard working teachers, to “look around” before purchasing a resource. I have found too many resources on TPT that can be found for free. It upsets me that other teachers, that are also naive about TPT, are paying money for these resources. It is not enough for TPT to take things seriously after an activity has been reported. TPT is making money off of the site. Thus it is their obligation to monitor it, not the burden of individual teachers who do not profit from spending their time combing through the site. Everyone should want TPT to do more to make sure stolen work is not being sold, because that is what is truly upsetting here. Even if it is only one persons work that is stolen and sold, that is one person too many. But, it is more than just one person. I hope that TPT starts doing their part by cleaning out the dishonest sellers, because that will benefit all teachers.
There is a great article in The Atlantic, written by Abigail Walthausen, that everyone interested in this topic should go and read. The last two sentences of her article say it all. “The fact is, teachers’ work is already bestowed on the American public whether or not it is polished for sale or uploaded to an OER platform. But whether a teacher decides to share on a micro or a macro level, the choice should be open and judgement free.” Thank you Abigail!
Dan pretty much sums it all up here. Thank you Dan.
The TPT sellers in this thread need to get it together. There is a pretty simple response here that absolves them of wrongdoing and restores whatever connection they want to the online math ed community. Instead of that response, every seller cites (1) how great TPT is, (2) instances of plagiarism, exploitation, and copyright infringement by other businesses and in other fields.
(1) is beside the point. Julie isn’t calling out the service as a whole, except insofar as they don’t take violations seriously.
(2) blows my mind. “Other companies do bad things so only call out TPT plagiarists if you’re also going to call out Amazon, Apple, British Petroleum, Monsanto, and the Zodiac Killer.” Huh?
Here it is for free:
“That is lame, Julie. I’d never do that and I love what TPT offers me as a seller so it makes me mad when other sellers give the service a bad name. I’m going to forward this to all of my contacts at TPT and ask them to take this more seriously.”
TPT takes customer feedback very seriously. If someone is reporting a product I’m sure they are getting an email from TPT immediately. I cannot speak to this directly, but I did once accidentally upload the wrong product, and immediately after receiving a comment from a purchaser, I received an email from
TPT with an ultimatum to fix it within 48 hours or face consequences. – Brianne
There is nothing in this post that criticises teachers (or anyone else) from buying and selling resources using TPT or other avenues. The criticism is of the TPT platform itself. This seems reasonable as any site that profits from the trade in Intellectual Property needs a robust mechanism to ensure that the seller actually has the rights to offer what they sell. Youtube has their “Content ID” system to detect freebooting and TPT really should have something to do basic automated checks of uploaded content against existing material elsewhere on the web. – Chris Heddles