I’d be surprised if you haven’t already heard… Teachers Pay Teachers sellers have been getting into trouble with their school districts for selling their creations. This has happened all over the country, and it is why I strongly recommend keeping your TpT life separate from your professional life. Unfortunately, your school district can ban you from selling your resources. They can even demand a cut or all of your earnings. This article goes into more of the legal details, but here is an excerpt from that article to summarize it:
If your employment contract assigns copyright ownership of materials produced for the classroom to the teacher, then you probably have a green light. Absent any written agreement, however, 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.”
- Tim Walker, of the National Education Association “Legal Controversy Over Lesson Plans”
Most districts aren’t pressing into the matter, but you never know! Here are a few things you can do to CYA (cover your…..):
- Every step of the creation process should be done at home, on your own time, using your own equipment. You need to use your home computer, your own personal software licenses, and back up your files on your own personal external drive.
- Do not use the materials you create on TpT in your own classroom, or share them with teachers that you work with. I know this seems crazy, but that is how important keeping your TpT products separate from your teaching career is. If you are using them in your classroom, your district could make a case against you stating that you created the lessons for them. I’ll admit, I have shared things I’ve made with other teachers, but I always remove my name from the bottom of each page. I am also careful about giving out electronic copies.
- Do not talk about TpT at school. Even if you feel like you can trust a few close co-workers, you know nothing really stays a secret at school. When people start hearing that you’re making extra money on TpT, their imaginations are going to run wild. Eventually people are going to be telling others that you make thousands per month, and people get weird when they’re jealous. Someone could bring it up with the administration and blow your cover. We’ve all known that one teacher that calls the county to tattle or complain about the smallest things… You can never be too careful.
Despite the many who are opposed to teachers selling their resources, you cannot ignore the fact that two out of three U.S. teachers have been active on TpT in the last year. It isn’t surprising since there are over 2 million resources to date! According to a national teacher survey, 87 percent of respondents said they trust other teachers when it comes to matching curriculum materials with the Common Core. Only 38 percent of respondents said they trust curriculum providers and publishers. Teachers are embracing the tech world that we live in, and saving time is in the best interest of every teacher, even if it means spending their own money. Teachers are helping teachers!
For now, do what you can to protect your work from your district. Tim Walker, of the National Education Association, says that educators should work with local affiliates to bargain copyright protections into collective bargaining agreements. And in non-bargaining states, affiliates should pressure school employers to develop more equitable intellectual property policies.