On ‘Teachers Pay Teachers,’ Some Sellers Are Profiting From Stolen Work

Julie Reulbach doesn’t sell resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace where educators can make money on their lesson plans and classroom materials. Even so, she often sees her work for sale there.

“Everytime I check, I find something,” said Reulbach, a high school math teacher at a private school in Concord, N.C., who has published an instructional blog since 2010. She scans TpT for work from her blog about once every six months. Her site is under a NonCommercial Creative Commons license, so anyone can use, edit, or share her materials—but they are not supposed to sell them.

It’s happening anyway. And Reulbach’s experience isn’t unique. Education Week logo

Nearly a dozen educators who have used or are knowledgeable about the site told Education Week that TpT has a widespread problem with copyright infringement. Teachers said sellers had lifted passages verbatim from their lessons and copied entire pages without permission. While the company provides a reporting mechanism for infractions, it leaves the policing to the rights holders themselves.

The controversy over stolen work has also fueled a larger ideological rift in the teaching community: the division between those who think it’s fine for teachers to make money off their hard work, and those who believe educators should share materials with their colleagues for free.

In a statement, TpT CEO Joe Holland said that the company takes the protection of intellectual property seriously.

“TpT strictly prohibits its sellers from listing material that infringes on the intellectual property rights of others, and we have no desire to have such material on TpT,” he said.

But educators and authors say the company should be doing more to combat what they see as a systemic failure to protect teachers and others who create materials.

‘They Shouldn’t Be Selling It’

When Reulbach sees sellers attempting to make money off of lessons she’s created, she reaches out to them and asks them to take her materials down. “Usually, people contact me and say, ‘I’m really sorry,’” and remove the resource from their store, she said…

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