This is a joint blogpost by Ross Morrison McGill (@TeacherToolkit) and Jim Knight (@LordJimKnight). Jim is an advisor on education to The TES and others, and is a former schools minister in the House of Lords.
This information is an outcome from @TeacherToolkit posting ‘#Vamoose: I’m off!‘ information on his blog in September 2013. Ross: ‘I am also offering the TES an opportunity to respond to my original post and share this information here with my readers.’
User generated changes to The TES site:
We’ve had some conversations in recent weeks about terms and conditions on the TES Connect website. These have been highly constructive, and led directly to some changes to the site, outlined below.
Recently Ross and a number of other teachers raised concerns on blogs and on Twitter about the terms and conditions on the TES Connect website.
Their prime concern, was regarding the small print on resource-sharing; which stated that teachers agreed to waive their “moral rights” to the material they uploaded. Some of the concerned teachers feared this meant uploaders were losing the copyright to their work, and handing over their intellectual property.
Staff at the TES insisted this was not the case – and never had been! However, the group felt that the fact users were reaching that conclusion indicated that the terms and conditions needed to be improved, to give users of the TES site greater confidence.
Ross also raised a significant issue about links within resources to paid-for content.
TES Connect does not allow resources that link to paid-for material in order to ensure that the free teaching materials on the site are genuinely free. This was initiated in order to stop companies filling the resources section with material that acted, as little more than advertisements for their own products. The group had a particular problem with companies trying to sell products. One example was a kitchen supplier selling their wares to teachers!
(Ross: ‘We were questioning the validity and the relevance.’)
But Ross questioned why, as a teacher, he could not put links onto his own TES resources, with link-referrals back to his own blog? From August, he now had a link on his own website, for a book he had written which was now being sold and that his resources were now being disabled and removed.
Staff at TES felt this was a topic that had not been explored in depth internally, and therefore also worthy of discussion.
So, Ross was invited in for a meeting at the TES headquarters (on Saturday 5th October 2013) along with other teachers who had raised these concerns. This is the outcome here, as written by Ross.
Unfortunately, only Ross could make the meeting; chaired by Jim, but it was a very positive discussion. Ross did a great job in reflecting the worries of those who had contacted him and the TES team present – TES editor Ann Mroz; TES Pro director Michael Shaw, and TSL head of risk Arshid Bashir – listened carefully to the concerns. Some of the concerns the group were able to dispel immediately; others, they acknowledged, would require changes to the site.
At the meeting the TES team agreed to the following actions.
Terms and Conditions:
- To make clear in the terms and conditions that intellectual property rights and copyright remain with the creator of the resource.
- To clarify and explain the “moral rights” section on resource-uploading in the terms and conditions, in a way that would reassure teachers.
- To add a statement to the TES Pledge, underlining the fact that users who upload their material retain it is as their intellectual property.
- To ensure all resource-creators are informed in cases where TES adapts user-generated material for new sites, such as country-specific TES portals.
- To update the TES FAQs accordingly.
- The status-quo would remain, stopping users placing links within free resources to paid-for material on external sites.
- However, teachers would be allowed to post links in their TES profiles to their own web-pages, including to pages featuring promotion of paid-for material they have created.
- TES would make it clearer, including on its homepage, that the teacher-uploaded resources on the site are free.
- TES would add an additional button among the options on its ‘Contact Us’ page, for those wanting to raise concerns.
The TES team agreed to get working with their lawyers on redrafting the terms and conditions immediately in line with the agreed outcomes.
The terms and conditions themselves:
Last week, the TES team received the redrafted terms and conditions back from the lawyers. It had taken quite a while, as the new set includes explanatory panels, adding clarity to every single section, including parts that were not discussed in the meeting.
The terms now include very clear lines that stress, that material uploaded by teachers remains their intellectual property.
The section on uploads now starts with an explanatory panel that begins:
“This clause explains your rights and obligations in relation to the content that you post on our websites and the terms of the licence which you grant us regarding that content. The licence does not change or transfer copyright or the intellectual property ownership to TSL.”
The opening line of that section in the terms and conditions then begins:
“All User-Uploaded Content copyright remains with the intellectual property owner.”
The new terms and conditions also includes an explanation around the issue of moral rights, which Ross said made sense, but only after it had been explained and placed in context.
A key reason for the moral rights section, is to allow teachers to adapt resources they find on the site – which is important if they are to make them relevant to their own pupils – without fear of legal action from the person who created and uploaded them. The ability to “remix” teaching material and improve it is regarded as a defining feature of Open Educational Resources.
So, in the new terms and conditions, we spell this out in the explanatory panel; immediately after stressing that intellectual property and copyright are not transferred to TSL:
“The terms of the licence includes a waiver of any moral rights you have in the content. Moral rights is a legal term used to describe certain protections the law gives to authors of copyrighted work. The waiver wording in our terms is included because moral rights can restrict the adaption of copyrighted works, including content uploaded by users. Including this waiver gives TSL and TES members more freedom to create adaptations and incorporate them into resources for use by the wider TES user community.”
Links to paid-for content:
Staff at TES have been instructed not to prevent users from including links in their TES profiles that go to their own websites, even if that includes links to commercial content.
At the same time, it also began the process of stressing more directly on the site’s homepage, that teacher-created resources were free, and will always remain free. This image, that went live on the site’s home page, is just one part of that process.
The new terms and conditions are due to go live shortly. The TES team have more steps to take, to meet all the outcomes of that meeting; as such, we are updating the site’s pledge… but those changes are expected before Christmas.
The TES team stress, that it has genuinely appreciated the feedback from Ross and other teachers on this, and always wants to hear ways the site could be improved.
- #Vamoose and #Skedaddle – What next @TeacherToolkit? (teachertoolkit.me)