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Teachers Pay Teachers and its Copyright Issues
posted by: Melissa | January 15, 2019, 07:23 PM   

Teachers Pay Teachers has become ubiquitous among educators. The website allows teachers who have developed curriculum materials for their classes, to sell that material to other teachers. For the teachers buying the materials, the website is a time-saver and means that they don’t have to worry about reinventing the wheel.


If you dig only that far, Teachers Pay Teachers is a boon for educators. However, not everything on the website is perfect. Often, materials posted by other educators are only minimally vetted. This has led some to question the quality of the materials they have gotten from the website in the past. It has also led to concerns regarding copyright.


Teachers are masters at taking something created by someone else and modifying it to suit their own needs. After all, every classroom and student is different, and the curriculum books from big publishing houses rarely suit every class or every child. Thus, making slight tweaks has always been a natural and ongoing part of a teacher’s job. Problems arise when teachers then try to sell that sort of work for profit on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers.


Shortly before Christmas 2018, Education Week published an article on how widespread copyright infringement has become on the site. The piece details how Teachers Pay Teachers’ educator-submitted materials are often based on work from another educator and only slightly modified. Since the website doesn’t vet materials for copyright ownership, original content creators constantly police the site to protect their work.


Further content violations occur when the material being sold was originally offered for free, as was the case with Tess Raser’s content. Raser had designed a curriculum intended to accompany a viewing of the movie Black Panther, which she offered for free on her website. The curriculum became popular and months later, a copy of it was found on another educator’s Teachers Pay Teachers site, available for a fee.


According to Education Dive, many sellers who are out of compliance may not be aware that they’re running afoul of the law when they post materials for sale. In addition to the above issues, teachers may not have appropriate rights to include certain pictures or texts in lessons. Fair Use clauses allow for some reuse leeway, but do not allow educators to sell or profit from the work.


Before selling or publishing materials on any site such as Teachers Pay Teachers, educators should familiarize themselves with the laws surrounding copyright and fair use.


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