BE WARY of Teachers Pay Teachers

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Featured Comments:  

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

 

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39 thoughts on “BE WARY of Teachers Pay Teachers

  1. What a disgraceful post! I’m sorry somebody took your work and tried to pass it off as their own but there are so few sellers that do this, it is more the exception rather than the rule. Teachers Pay Teachers is a website where teacher can create a second income. It is NOT exploitation! If you don’t like it, then don’t use it. Simple. I have bought some great resources from TpT and I’ve sold much of my work there as well. This has created a second income for me and has been life changing. Why should teachers share their work which has taken them weeks to put together – for free? You don’t expect any other profession to do this? If you believe teaching to be ‘different from other professions’ then why are teachers paid at all? Shouldn’t they be working for free? By your logic all teaching publications should be free as well? They are not because they are running a business. Just like teacher authors on TpT. You wouldn’t call out teaching publications as being ‘exploitative’ in the same way you should not be saying this about teacher authors. I have gotten many resources for free in my time as a teacher and, when I find a resource I like, I am happy to pay the couple of dollars to thank the teacher that created it and show my appreciation! For less than the price of a cup of coffee, teachers can get a whole lesson plan which often includes quality clip art. Again, if you don’t want to pay, then don’t. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience with people taking your free work but TpT do take these things seriously and will ban sellers that do this after a warning. Report sellers please but do not throw all TpT sellers into one basket. This is unfair and totally unprofessional of you to do so.

    • We have different philosophies about sharing our work, and that is ok. I am sorry that you were offended, but I was not unprofessional in this post, and I did not say anything untrue. I did not say that the majority of teachers on TPT were passing on work that was not their own. 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 is not enough for TPT to take things seriously once it is reported. TPT is making money off of the site, and thus should be monitoring it, not individuals who do not profit from spending their time combing through the site. You should not be upset at me, but at TPT for not doing 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 many more than just one. And unfortunately that does taint the site. I hope that TPT starts doing their part by cleaning out the dishonest sellers, because that will help all of the honest sellers like you as well.

      • I actually agree with your point about the problem. However, this can go the other way. I’ve had paid work of mine be offered for free online when a teacher has posted on their blog for students to download for homework or they share on a public forum and so have many other sellers. If my potential customers find my paid product for free, then where does that leave me? I agree this is a problem but overall the TpT site does work hard to keep control over what is posted and they are quick to act and take something down when reported. It’s not 100% fail-safe but my biggest concern is Pinterest and other platforms where teacher authors on TpT are regularly having their paid resources given away.

      • You may not have said the words “all of TPT” but look at your blog post title and consider what it implies. Your post would have come across as more nuanced and effective if you’d discussed what it is to be a good digital citizen and how to protect your work regardless of what field you are in.

        You should include Amazon, Target, and other giants in this rant. Teachers have found their work in the OneSpot, designers have found their T-shirt designs, Amazon inspire allowed(s) people to upload copyrighted materials. . . This isn’t a TPT specific issue.

      • My title is intended to serve as a warning that I hope is especially helpful to people who are new to TPT, especially in the Math Ed community. I was not aware of the other sites that are allowing people to upload copyrighted materials until I saw your comment. That is what led me to search for and read the article in The Atlantic. It’s so disappointing. While it isn’t a TPT specific issue, it is a TPT issue, and I would love to see them address it to protect the integrity of all of their buyers and sellers.

  2. I think you and I have found common ground for sure. The seller that uploaded my files to TPT said that she was “inspired” by Pinterest. I have not heard of people sharing things they bought for free on their websites, but I am sure that happens as well. My close friend is a food blogger, who gets paid by clicks to her blog, but often her entire recipes are shared on FB, without a link to her site, and she loses income. Tonight, seeing my work stolen, again, and then the seller telling me that my work was her original content was upsetting, again. I hate that anyone has to feel this way, whether it’s free work being sold, or paid work being given away for free. Why can’t everyone just be good digital citizens?

  3. I agree with Jo! Dishonesty can happen anywhere on the internet, but I think it’s unfair to blame TPT as a whole. I could claim your work as mine on Facebook or a blog and it wouldn’t be word press or Mark Zuckerburg’s fault. Also, most TPT authors are very proud of the originality and creativity of their work. You speak as if the majority of TPT sellers stole their products. Reality is, most TPT teacher authors spent hours, days, weeks creating those materials. Also, it’s likely they made those materials with clipart and font that they paid for the commercial use of out of their own pocket. Then that hard-working teacher author will sell that product for a few dollars! That’s not exploitation, that’s hard work and quality product creation.

    Also, what’s stopping those dishonest people who steal others work from stealing from TPT sellers and then putting on their blog for free?? It can go both ways! There are things that teacher authors and bloggers can do to decrease the likelihood of their work being stolen, such as making sure you are flattening the documents before uploading them and also adding your trademark information to every page/task card. However at the end of the day, we can only do so much, and often have to hope for the honesty of others, no matter which platform you create on. TPT authors aren’t just random teachers sitting at home creating mediocre materials for money, they believe in the quality and usefulness fo their products and sell them at a fair price. It’s your choice to give away your hard work for free, but don’t act like you’re better than those who choose to sell their materials. Teacher sellers believe their stuff is good enough to sell, and they are right. And your stuff may also be good enough to sell and you could probably make some money on TPT too, but you choose not to. But that doesn’t make you better. Don’t sell your fellow teachers short, they can be savvy business people, as well as great teachers at the same time. They can be fair AND wise at the same time. They are working hard to make more money for their families and they deserve your respect before you tar them all with the same brush.

    Some other considerations for you:
    – In my experience, you get what you pay for. Most items I have paid for on TPT are of amazing quality with in-depth instructions, implementation ideas and ink friendly alternative options.
    – Did you know that TPT sellers can’t start selling materials in their store until they upload at least one free product? Sellers are encouraged to make sure it’s of impeccable quality as this represents the calibre of your work as a seller. There are MANY great and wonderful free materials on TPT. I love finding a free product I love and then realising there are a bunch more just like it for sale in that same seller’s store, it gives me the option for variety.
    – The variety is amazing! I work in special education and sometimes I teach the same thing every week for 6 months! Its great to be able to find so many different ways to teach the same idea on TPT. This helps me keep things interesting for my kids.
    – Time is money – let’s be honest, I could make my own versions of what I find on TPT for my own personal use, but wow that would take FOREVER! I would much rather spend $2-$6 on an activity that would have taken me hours to make for my students.

    I understand it must have sucked having your work stolen, and it shouldn’t have happened. That seller is disgraceful! But it’s something that could happen to any of us, TPT seller or blogger. If you don’t want to pay for materials then don’t. But I encourage you to consider your fellow hard working teachers before you write this way about a platform that, for the most part, is how honest teachers make extra money by selling quality materials to other teachers who want them.

    Kind regards
    Brooke

    • Hi Brooke, I’m sorry that you felt I was saying that I was better than other teachers selling their work on TPT. I have never said that and do not feel that. I am dismayed by people who steal other’s work and sell it, and how frequently I find it on TPT. I have included your last two points in the featured comments. The math ed community has much great material for free online, but I know that is not true of other disciplines. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. I appreciate your warning to be sure our work is not being stolen, or that free materials are not sold. I do not agree that teachers should offer all of their hard work for free. We already live in a society where we are not valued or paid commensurate to our work. Why should we spend hours upon hours of our own time creating materials that districts won’t provide and then be expected to give it away? In what other profession is that done? Doctors aren’t expected to give their services away for free, nor are lawyers, farmers, merchants,…”so we can become better together” or to “help another overworked” doctor/lawyer/farmer. Be aware, it is my policy and that of many other TpTers to give away resources in many instances (if I see a specific need, in my own district, etc.). Teacher-authors are an extremely giving and altruistic bunch!

    • I meant to add that other professions have altruistic members/situations: doctors, lawyers, farmers, etc. all give their time and services for free in certain situations, too.

    • It is ok that you do not think teachers should give their work for free. We all can have different philosophies and that is ok. In the math ed community, it was all of the people sharing free resources that changed my teaching practice. I am forever grateful for them because they made me better. It is why I believe what I do. I want to give back what was given to me. We all come from different situations.

      • The math ed community is amazing! I used to want to sell resources until I came across it as well. It’s inspiring.

  5. While I agree that an issue exists, your post lacks some background knowledge that you would not have unless you are a TPT seller.
    1. When you upload a resource, you have to indicate whether the resource is your own original work. However, it’s only a checkbox, so it’s not going to stop a dishonest person from checking it. As a seller, I take this seriously. I look at it as an oath, whereas someone else may look at it as part of the upload process. In any case, this is an indicator for TPT that as far as they know this is an original resource.
    2. 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.

    • “As a seller, I take this seriously. I look at it as an oath, whereas someone else may look at it as part of the upload process. In any case, this is an indicator for TPT that as far as they know this is an original resource.”

      I am happy to know that TPT requires sellers to fix problems within 48 hours. I appreciate that the majority of sellers take this oath seriously, as I know the majority of bloggers also only post original material or share OER. The “as far as they know this is an original resource” is what bothers me. A checkbox should not let TPT off the hook, especially when they are profiting from it. TPT should be working harder to ensure the integrity of the material it is profiting off of.

  6. 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.

    There is also nothing that says you shouldn’t sell (your own) work. The closest is an abbreviated version of the business (self-interest) case for Open Source, that has been well-established in the computer software world for decades. It basically boils down to “if you share for free then others will improve your work for you and you get to use the improved version”. This won’t work for everyone but it’s a valid perspective.

    • Yes, this is the main point everyone needs to understand: “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.” Anyone selling something for which they do not own the IP rights, is breaking the law. TPT’s site needs to step up.

  7. Specifically in reference to the following tweet:
    [Replying to @zimmerdiamonds @OrganizedTE and 2 others
    It is terrible that @TpTdotcom makes money off of stolen / copyright infringed material. THEY don’t check, they leave it up to US to report it. Shameful.

    8:15 PM – 17 Feb 2018]

    Hello, I’m a long time reader and a TPT seller. I completely agree that it is disgusting that some sellers do this (as does the vast majority of the TPT community), but as to the “THEY don’t check, they leave it up to US to report it. Shameful.” comment, how do you suggest they do this? I’m not aware of any open marketplace style website that verifies every single item for infringement, nor do I think that to be possible. Heck, even the FDA lets makeup companies self-regulate and only intervene if enough people have complained about adverse side effects.

    Is that fair to say that TPT is shameful for operating like every other company? Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, TPT all operate roughly the same. Why is TPT more shameful than the rest? Amazon has a ton of knockoff products that are in total violation of copyright and/or patents. Etsy, just doing a quick search, has tens of thousands of infringing Disney products alone. One thing that each company has in common however, is that if a product is reported, it is then investigated. I know I have gotten an Amazon listing taken down for being a total ripoff. Same for TPT.

    I’m asking, because with such a strong statement (re: “shameful”), I want to know how we could move toward fixing it. To me, TPT is doing their job. When you upload a product, you have to attest that everything is your own, or if you are using copyrighted materials that you have gotten permission from the owner. Obviously, sellers can lie, but I have seen TPT move with swift action once items get reported.

    As unfair as resource stealing is, this problem goes both ways, so please be careful of making it appear to be a TPT only problem. I do monthly searches to find my products posted (in full) to teacher’s websites/blogs, despite the terms of use explicitly stating that in no way, shape, or form can my products be listed online. Is it then the blog host’s job to check each blog post attachment for infringing resources before allowing the post to be published, else they be shameful, too? No. Each blogging platform has a reporting system (that I have used many times in the past), and it works most of the time, just like TPT, Etsy, Amazon, etc. That said, one wrong doesn’t right another. I just want to be mindful about pointing fingers when we’re all really on the same side, which is providing ethical, high quality resources. I’m not certain that this is a TPT problem, as much as it is a person problem. Some people will always refuse to do what’s right.

    The shameful comment just really stung for me. I can only speak for myself, but I put such an immense amount of time and pride into the items that I post onto TPT and I try every step of the way to be ethical in what I do, so for the site to be called shameful for operating like every other site, it just didn’t sit well with me. If you want to know more, perhaps try contacting TPT and learning more about how they respond to flagged resources.

    Everything said, I’m truly sorry that people have disrespected your work (and that of others in the MTBoS community) in this way and have taken something that was meant to be free for any teacher to use and then made a profit off of it. The actions of those sellers are despicable and shameful. I think you are right to be mad about it (as would anyone). Please know, as a TPT community, we take pride in doing everything by the books. Don’t let the actions of a small few inform your perception of the entire site.

  8. A whole other debate that hasn’t been touched upon is, “the Copyright Act of 1976 stipulates that materials created by teachers in the scope of their employment are deemed “works for hire” and therefore the school owns them.” Teachers need to examine their teacher contract to see if selling their materials created as part of their job is in violation of the contract.

    • I have always wondered about this with regards to TPT and similar sites. Particularly if the materials being sold were created using technology owned by the school (like a school laptop) or during school hours.

      • I’m not an attorney, but I believe it doesn’t matter if it’s created “on your own time”. I think the intellectual property is owned by the employer…unless the property is vastly different than the scope of employment.

  9. I appreciate your post. I have some free items and some for sale items on TPT and I am getting ready to begin a blog with math resources. I had no idea that folks were selling resources they got for free, so thank you for writing this post and alerting me to what I should watch out for.

  10. 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.”

  11. If you’re an educator wanting to give back to the community, perhaps consider a creative commons license in your work.

    https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

    While I realize bad actors can intentionally remove such copyright notices, I like to think it would have some positive effect on a majority of teachers who (by their nature) tend to be rule followers!a

  12. I have been upset to see that since I posted this, every blogger that has searched Teachers Pay Teachers has found at least one person selling their copyrighted material. Many of these sellers are selling material poached from several different bloggers. One seller that was reported has over 500 items posted in her store and 5,000 followers. This is a huge problem that should be a concern for ALL teachers, especially if they are buying or selling material through TPT. Everyone has to see that this is not ok. It is not ok.

  13. I think people who want to share their teaching materials with or without charging should explore a Creative Commons copyright.
    Either
    (i) Attribution (you need to credit me as the creatorl) • Non-Commerical (you can’t sell my stuff) • Share-Alike (you can alter my work) or
    (ii) Attribution (you need to credit me as the creatorl) • Non-Commerical (you can’t sell my stuff) • No-Derivs (you cannot alter my work) ….
    and start copyrighting their work with on of the CC copyrights.
    https://creativecommons.org
    Also, if you or a union have flexibility to negotiate your teaching contract. Include ownership of your Intellectual Property!

      • Ok that’s a start. The next thing is to renegotiate contracts and get union or nonprofit lawyers to help protect teachers intellectual property. I have no problem with Teachers Pay Teachers, by the way ( lots of very good material on there from what I have seen) as long as they are monitoring the provenance of the work..

  14. If you are a teacher and plan to someday put your kid through college, you need a second job. Selling on TpT is no different from coaching or tutoring. Lucky you to be able to provide on just one salary.

    • Are you seriously suggesting that it’s OK for people (teachers?) to sell stolen work because they need the money? If so then you will find many who disagree with you.

      If you are just defending the right of people to create and sell their own work through TPT then nobody is disagreeing with that. As has been said many times before, the concern is with some TPT vendors selling work that they stole from elsewhere. If you’re selling your own material then there is no problem.

      Also, I agree that teachers (especially in the USA) don’t get paid anywhere near enough.

  15. Pingback: Let's just share... - More than a Geek

  16. Hi Julie,
    Thanks for posting this and all your hard work related to this issue. I will be sharing your post in an upcoming Global Math Department newsletter. I think your post is a great place for teachers to start their journey in learning more about being a wiser distributor and consumer of teacher-created (or stolen) materials. I recommend teachers learn more about their employer’s stance on copyright ownership. Here’s a place to start.
    http://www.nea.org/home/37583.htm

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