Whilst it is a Saturday evening I’m happily sat at my laptop posting my first ever Guest Blog Post. The #Vamoose story has been of interest to me ever since it was published by @TeacherToolkit. The world of blogging, to which I am a rather late entrant, is changing at a rapid pace.
#Vamoose & # Skedaddle may just be the start of teachers being able to create, post and sell for a small fee the resources they produce. There is no such thing as a “free resource”, there is a teacher out there who has spent time and effort putting it together. I’m delighted to say that I have purchased Ross McGill’s new book and I have every intention of buying Alex Quigley’s and Tom Sherrington’s books, when they are published, as well. They may not be able to retire on the proceeds but I’d rather keep my money circulating in the profession then to big corporations. You may agree or disagree.
#Vamoose and #Skedaddle
In this anticipated post, we hope to highlight the concerns that have been raised by the teaching community; allow others to catch up with what has been taking place; and of late, report back to everyone, regarding the outcomes at TSL headquarters today.
There are two parts to this post…
1. The background to #Vamoose prior to today's publication, to which the first half of this article has been premeditated. 2. And, the second half of the article, which has been updated today, following a meeting at TSL headquarters in London at 2.30pm on Saturday 5th October 2013.
The teachers representing this article are:
In the original post, we highlighted that the resources that you upload to The TES website, no longer belong to you and that the TES’s Terms and Conditions are not clear enough. This was compounded by examples shared below.
TES Terms and Conditions: ‘You hereby waive any moral rights you have in the content‘.
As a consequence, the TES can continue to use the resources you upload and share, for free. However, one that has needed clarification for everyone, is charging customers to use TESPro in order to access resources. I will clarify this for everyone below on behalf of Michael Shaw who is director of TES Pro and former deputy editor of the TES magazine.
Our first objection:
… to the TES parent company, is the “harvesting” of resources for their other partner websites that may charge for access to these resources. This includes sharing your resources on other sister-sites in the USA (Share My Lesson) and Australia (TES Australia) – without your knowledge and perhaps, even after you have removed them from the TES in the UK.
We (the teacher), freely share resources with everyone and anyone in education. The TES resources page offers:
“Over 662,382 free teaching resources to use in your classroom and school today.” Last updated: 04 October 2013
All uploaded by you and I …
This means that we could assume that no-one would make any financial gain from them. So, therefore the issue of Copyright and IP ownership should be irrelevant. However, since the online exposure of the current TES’s Terms and Conditions, this is now a huge issue for the online community of teachers here in the UK.
The image below by Julia speaks for itself… but will be clarified.
In a nutshell, (we) lose (our) rights once (we) upload a resource to their website!
(For example) “As time has moved on over the past 18 months, I have shared a total of 33 resources on the TES; all of them generating over 496,000 views across the globe and hopefully making an impact on hundreds of teachers and thousands and thousands of students in schools. Great!
These statistics in itself, are powerful.
Using the potential of social-media and blogging, I and a few others, have come to discover the ‘power of the people’, for making your own resources available to thousands and thousands of other teachers, for free. But what other business sectors would accept this? And also doing this for free?”
The TES did have the courtesy to reply to my original post and you can read the full story here. Hopefully, you will also be aware of the following (current) contractual agreement on The TES…
Rights in posted content:
“With respect to all Content you post on the Websites, you grant TSL Education a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sub-licensable right and licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. With respect to all Content you post to the Websites, you hereby waive any moral rights you have in the Content. You agree to perform all further acts necessary to perfect any of the above rights granted by you to TSL Education, including the execution of deeds and documents, at our request.
You will… immediately remove and notify us of any Content that does not does not comply with these Terms and Conditions or may infringe the rights of third parties. You agree to … Terms and Conditions.”
It says quite clearly above: "that content uploaded by the user always remains the property of that user".
So, why do they have the statement in their Terms and Conditions about The TES owning any uploaded content, if that’s not the case. This is completely contradictory!
What sparked #Vamoose?
… was that a small number of us and publicly shared resources with The TES and have also started to promote the sales of our own work on our own websites. In my case, a first book on a mere teacher-blog with little or no commercial potency. Furthermore, that some of the links we have shared on The TES resources page, redirect the user downloading the TES resources, from The TES website, back to our own websites for reading-references; not for financial gain.
Our second objection:
… is the double standards that exist with regards to links to external resources within resources; resource pages and teacher-profiles within the TES website. There are many, many resources that link to websites where products are offered for sale, or where products are advertised. There seem to be some very cosy relationships between TES, some contributors (although raised today, not intentional), and their own websites offering products for sale.
- Removal of my resources and web-links
We (have always been) happy to share freely amongst ourselves; helping the schools we work in and local networks. However, this is gradually changing speed with the introduction of Teaching Schools. Schools are funded to be leading providers for a ‘hub’ area and in return, either use these sums of cash to design and sustain CPD courses, yet quote other schools in return for a service level agreement (fee).
In terms of teacher-produced resources, the online landscape is changing and is yet a further example of grass-roots taking back control of the profession. (similar to #TeachMeets; #SLTchat). It would not take a genius to state, that the profession may bedivided by some the following options …
What are our options?
- stop sharing any further resources with the TES.
- remove any links on personal websites that promote the purchasing of any resources you may have for sale.
- or, continue to upload resources to TES Resources, but do not include any links that re-direct the viewer back to a website (that is selling a product).
- start uploading resources to your own websites for your own audiences to download. No login required. No terms and conditions violated!
- move you resources to another forum, such as Teachers Pay Teachers in the USA; and keep sharing and ‘consider’ offering resources for free with other popular files via a pay-per-download resource page on your own website.
There are all sorts of further options to consider …
You will be aware that we were invited to attend a meeting with Lord Knight at TES HQ on Saturday 5th October 2013. As of here, the content below is updated based on the meeting today.
Key points for discussion at TSL HQ:
- The underlying principle of “not for profit” sharing.
- New Terms and Conditions that protect the rights of the author.
- Payment to authors when resources are ‘sold’.
- Use of resources on other partner websites must have the authors permission.
- Links to external content being out of the control of the author, if the host (TES) places advertising out of their control.
So, what happened at TSL HQ?
So, in true pop-star fashion; all of the team sent their apologies and I (@TeacherToolkit) turned up alone and late to an empty reception. Inside the meeting room, TSL had clearly gone out of their way to meet with us and discuss the teacher-community concerns.
- TSL headquarters – Red Lion Square.
A true David vs. Goliath scenario set the scene with some premeditated cartoon tweets I had posted before I arrived. As I entered the room, Lord Knight was browsing through my Twitter page and had just viewed this cartoon …
- Lord Knight – David vs. Goliath
In attendance were:
- @JimPKnight (Lord Knight of Weymouth, Shadow Defra Minister in the Lords)
- @AnnMroz (Editor and Digital Publishing Director, TES, and former editor of Times Higher Education)
- @MrMichaelShaw (Director of TES Pro and former deputy editor of TES)
- Ashid ? (tbc – Legal Terms and Conditions advisor.)
- Tea and biscuits.
Once the initial sensitive introductions were made, off we set … and then Michael offered me a drink.
Our questions for TES HQ:
Answers in red.
- TES’s owners need to make a return on their investment in TES Connect; so, how are they going to do this (free means you (the teacher) are the product)? For information: TSL recently sold their company to Texas Pacific Group for £400M. We respect the teacher community and know that teacher-generated material is what makes TES work.
- Will TSL retrospectively change the T&C’s for all members who have used or added content to TES Connect and ShareMyLesson in the US? We will update Terms and Conditions following the meeting (see more details below) for new content henceforth.
- Why haven’t TSL adopted a Teachers Pay Teachers model previously? We do not want to differentiate between judging what resources should be free and what should be paid for content.
- Is Lord Knight aware that new owners, Texas Pacific Group have met with the owner of Teachable, a UK business almost identical to Teachers Pay Teachers? No, but we have a positive impression of TPG.
- The TES Advisory Board that is ‘led’ by Lord Knight. When was it established and what is its remit powers? Who does it report to and is it really independent? We are advisory to TES and that is all. We meet every 2-3 months and have no legal responsibility. We report to TSL’s CEO. You can read who is on the advisory board here and who is TSL’s Executive Team here.
- Have other teachers previously raised these issues and why didn’t the management at the TES/TSL act previously if they were aware of this issue? There was no clear answer. It was apparent that my original post and followers had provided us all with the opportunity to gain attention of the board.
- Was monetising the resources on TES Connect discussed with potential purchasers during the recent sale process (very likely)? As highlighted by Michael Shaw, TESPro will make it clear on their website and banner adverts, that teacher-produced resources will always be FREE and that the TESPro is not a forum for restricting free content in return for annual subscriptions to the TESPro magazine and so forth.
From what I could minute, there were 8 clear outcomes.
- Terms and conditions: TSL wanted to clarify, that no IP is given away. The teacher owns the resource. In essence, the licence is a Creative Commons Licence – but has a waiver of Moral Rights. This appeared to be the real sticking point and one that TSL would not be willing to address as it would be far too complicated to police. For example, (a very crude one) I may agree for you to use my 5 Minute Lesson Plan, but may not agree for you to publish within a Primary School context. The TSL cannot monitor these individual Moral Rights. I stressed that the key T&Cs were written in plain English so that teachers understand clearly what they are agreeing to. If TSL do keep the T&Cs, then it should be emblazoned across the screen before any person uploads anything. Therefore, the uploader takes full responsibility for any copyright violations, links to external websites and that content can be used elsewhere.
- Moral Rights: Two issues here that cannot be resolved with the current T&Cs. a) Rights not to be identified and b) Rights to privacy. TSL cannot guarantee this with any content uploaded. There is also a Data Protection issue and how the TES look after the resource. The current TES waiver ensures they cannot be sued. They admitted that Moral Rights is a minefield!
- TES profiles: An example is my own TES profile here. I raised the discrepancies and how some profiles advertised blog links; books and products and how others had been identified and asked to remove content. I highlighted that my own page included my Twitter icon as my profile-photo, and that it wouldn’t take a genius, to work out that just three-clicks away, you could reach my own website, where I ‘could be’ advertising my own resources or products for sale. It was agreed, that teachers would be allowed to include their website address in their TES profile page.
- Resources: It was agreed that resources uploaded to the TES would remain ‘clean’. That is, no product advertisements, but as no. 3 above, individual teachers could include their own website links from their profile page. I highlighted the idiocy that TES moderators had asked me to removed direct-links on individual resource pages (linking back to my blog for readership clarification and not-for-profit) and copy and paste any references as basic HTML code onto a Word document; then upload these as additional attachments to the resource page itself!
- TSL Pledge: The TSL would review their current TSL pledge to include some of the changes listed here on this post. It currently reads here: “Our pledge to you: TES Connect pledges that our members can download and share user-generated resources free of charge for ever. We are committed to protecting the privacy of our members’ personal data and promise never to sell or share it with any third party.”
- TESPro: would clarify their purpose of what is paid-for content and what is free. Michael Shaw stressed that all teachers resources are free and would remain so. The example tweet from Julia Taylor at the top of the page is an exception and if we encountered any more confusion, to direct the user to the Terms and Conditions which are soon to be updated. I also added the TESPro banner is long overdue for removal.
- Complaints: I asked for an easier mechanism to report ‘Complaints’ on the front page of the TES. As it currently stands, their is a ‘Report’ button on each individual resource page, but through the ‘Contact us’ page, their is no clear avenue in which to report any issues. It is currently, neatly tucked away at the bottom of the website.
- Lord Knight: The intention is, in light of all our concerns, that Lord Knight will co-author a blogpost with @TeacherToolkit informing the teaching community of the changes TSL have made. The predicted timescale was 2 weeks from today.
All in all, TSL and the team were incredibly hospitable and very open to our suggestions. I’d like to say thank you personally to TSL and the team today; on behalf of everyone in the teaching community who has taken the time to report their concerns. As a group, we can really shift sands. Our next task, is to collectively challenge the Secretary of State for Education! Grassroot teachers can do this, we just need a clear focus which is focused and not personalised …
TSL will make the necessary changes over the forthcoming weeks and report back. I left the meeting highlighting to The TES, that they have 3 options:
- Resource content for partners (for profit).
- Resource content for teachers (for free).
- Resource content for teachers advertising their products (for profit).
TSL: If I have made any of the above details/answers inaccurate, please let me know and I will readjust.