Our commitment to protect teachers’ work on Tes Resources

Michael Shaw
01st May 2019
Our commitment to protect teachers’ work on Tes Resources

Our commitment to protect teachers’ work on Tes Resources

An English teacher with a scheme of work on Macbeth. A maths teacher who uses rap to teach algebraic equations. A special educational needs coordinator with flash cards designed especially for children with dyslexia. Each week, thousands of teachers just like these upload their original lesson ideas to Tes Resources – lessons that they have carefully crafted and want to share.

Whether they share freely or choose to charge for their work, these teachers help to save other teachers time, and are why millions of educators visit Tes Resources from all over the world.

But we know that there are other teachers who use our site. This tiny minority sometimes upload material copied from others without proper permission or attribution.

How common is plagiarism on Tes Resources?

It is worth pointing out that these cases are relatively rare. Since the start of 2019, per week, we have seen an average of more than 4 million resource downloads. Also per week, we get an average of 17 reports on resources featuring content that may have been copied. Of those cases, typically only two would be classified as plagiarism: broader attempts to pass off someone else’s work as original.

Our customer services team investigates every case, resolving the majority within 48 hours.

I want to be clear about what we’re now doing and what we’ve already done to try to prevent such cases from happening at all. But I’m also going to outline why we can’t promise to prevent all scenarios, despite wanting to do so.

Financials, fingerprinting and file-checking

This month, we are introducing more stringent checks on uploaders of premium content. We will be beginning the roll-out of our new payment system – which will require all authors who wish to access funds to provide photo ID

While we are unaware of any cases where teachers we have banned have returned to upload further paid content, we will be working with our new payment platform to prevent this scenario.

We will also be putting into place the first pilot phase of our digital “fingerprinting” system. This is a system designed to detect if new material that is uploaded to the site matches material previously shared on Tes. While crude in its current form, it could have prevented some of the cases we have recently investigated.

What we’ve already done

We’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. This included changing our entire royalty system last autumn to remove the way it had previously rewarded authors for the quantity of their uploads. 

Last year, we also introduced:

  • A new compulsory Author code making every uploader agree they will “Only upload original resources you have created yourself, featuring material that is either your own or correctly licensed”.

  • Wholly new reporting systems for customers reporting copyright infringement – including “plagiarism” as an option for the first time.

  • New protocols for how the customer services team follow-up on reports and make decisions about copyright.

  • Tougher action against users we found breaching our conditions, including more immediate bans.

  • A range of online guides as part of our new Tes Author Academy, offering guidance on best practice around making original material and ensuring content used from other sources is correctly licensed and attributed.

The limits to what we can do

Some of our critics ask why we aren’t already preventing all cases of plagiarised material with an algorithm, perhaps similar to YouTube’s copyright detection system.

In theory, this sounds sensible. But such systems rely on rights-holders uploading all the original content they want protected. YouTube can detect if someone’s uploading a new episode of Game Of Thrones – but only because HBO has already uploaded that episode to its system. Copied material can be spotted only if it matches what is on their systems in the first place.

The next issue is around the difficulty of detecting matching content. These include cases of teachers significantly reformatting work. Our team also has to investigate and adjudicate on cases where the intellectual property claim can, on the surface, be quite abstract, such as a complaint a teacher’s worksheet was based on another, even though it was about a wholly different set text.

 

The freedom to be free

We are proud that more than 95% of downloads on Tes are free. We know of no other site that enables as much free sharing between teachers of Creative-Commons-licenced lesson material.

But we can carry that on only if we continue as an open platform, not as a publisher, and if there’s revenue to cover our costs.

We have received some claims via social media that Tes seeks to profit from plagiarism. This is untrue. In relevant cases, we allocate an equivalent of the total sales amount to our designated charity.

We have always been committed to stamping out incidents of plagiarism where we find them, regardless of whether it is within paid-for or free content.

We want to continue to make our systems even more rigorous and to begin the process of detecting problem material automatically at the point of upload. We have huge sympathy for educators who are annoyed if they find other teachers using their lesson resources in a way they had not intended.

Our content team – nearly all of whom are former teachers themselves – will continue to work with educators and publishers as we evolve our approach to preventing this.

Any teacher in the world can come to our site and find something that they can use or adapt for use in their classroom. We think that’s worth defending – especially against alternatives that are less open.

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