I got a copyright infringement notice!

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

Teachers Pay Teachers is a fantastic place to build a community and have a side-hustle for us teachers! Well recently I got a copyright infringement notice from another use of the site, so I thought it'd be a good opportunity to let all the TPT users out there what it's like to get a copyright infringement notice. Sure, we could just read what TPT says about it, but what's it look like from a consumer's point of view? How good is the process? What do they actually do?

I'm not going to discuss what the alleged copyrighted material is or anything about the complainant. This is about the process from a, I guess, 'defendant' point of view.

On Saturday morning I got an email from TPT saying they've received a copyright notice, taken down my material, and what I can do next. Pretty straight-forward stuff.

Is this copyright?

I was, of course, worried that I had done some horrible thing. I needed to check, so I went through those three resource links at the bottom of the email. I'm a little bit familiar with copyright and trademark but not fantastic. I have always been excellent at referencing my work to avoid plagiarism, I don't go over the photocopying limit at school, I do my best to stay clean. There was nothing in those three links that I could find that made me think the copyright claim was valid.

Of course, I do know why the person believes I copyrighted their work. It's because of an idea. I saw something I thought had potential in and I took some ideas from it. Totally legal. Totally not copyright or any kind of infringement on intellectual property. TPT agrees:

...copyright does not protect your original ideas or concepts behind your work. Your unique expression of that idea is what the law protects. So, while it wouldn't be ok for someone to make an exact copy of your work, the law doesn’t necessarily prevent someone else from using the same idea to create their own version of the work.

For example (and this is not the content in question), here's a couple of pieces of work. On the left is a puzzle by Down River Resources. On the right, the exact same idea from Ready Lessons.

So, is this copyright infringement? Nope. While the idea is the same (and the puzzle pieces are pretty much exactly the same), each resource is individual.

Oh, look I found a few more..

Links to the resources in that image:  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Counting-to-20-Game-Puzzle-Matching-Numbers-to-Quantity-Number-Recognition-1-20-2439707   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Factors-and-Multiples-Puzzles-FREEBIE-1731343   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Place-Value-Number-Puzzles-2255703  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Place-Value-Puzzles-Standard-Expanded-Word-Form-446854    https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Exponent-Matching-Puzzles-2029901   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Decompose-Two-Digit-Number-Puzzles-1132954   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Piecewise-Functions-Cut-Out-Puzzle-2039671   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Break-It-Down-Decomposing-Teen-Numbers-Puzzles-1100188   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kindergarten-NEW-Math-TEKS-K2BD-Number-Puzzles-Numbers-1-20-1297874   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/2nd-Grade-Math-Centers-2nd-Grade-Math-Games-2nd-Grade-Math-Puzzles-Bundle-3976653   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Place-Value-Center-Puzzles-2743833   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Number-Puzzles-for-Second-Grade-BUNDLE-2251635   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Center-3rd-Grade-Telling-Time-to-the-Nearest-Minute-Game-Puzzles-3MD1-2003950   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Two-Digit-Addition-Number-Puzzles-2245091   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Inverse-Functions-Puzzle-1912739   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Add-Fractions-Like-Denominator-Game-Puzzle-Decomposing-Fraction-4th-Grade-4NF3-3383449
Links to all these resources can be found in the Alt Text of this image

There are heaps of these kinds of puzzles on TPT, and rightly so! They're attractive, they're useful, they cover the curriculum, they keep the students engaged. People should definitely be making these puzzles! Maybe that could be a next project of mine?

I'm confident the material in question does not fall under copyright infringement. I put in hours of work into my resources to build consistent pieces of work that are of my own design - both the content and the layout. If you're familiar with my work on YouTube, you'll get a general idea of my designs - both in the thumbnails and in the videos itself. The reason for the copyright was that the person believes I was stealing their work (those are their words, not mine). The use of an idea, just like above, are analogous to the situation I'm currently in.

So, how's the process?

Below the email (the one at the top of the page) was the notice that the complainant had filled out. Nicely formatted, came from a form by clicking a button on my materials page. Super easy for the complainant, although I bet it was repetitive and time-consuming since the person chose to take down ten of my unique pieces of work.

Well I got the email from TPT and they just said 'hey, reply to this email with your counter-

copyright notice' and I thought 'wow, no form to fill out? Just reply?'. I wasn't a fan of that. So I did what any nerd would do. Take it to my favourite spreadsheeting software and make it look more professional than a basic email.

The bits on the left column replicate the requirements of the counter-claim policy on TPT's website.

"But Hash", you ask, "you just said you had ten pieces of material removed! This email only has enough room for one! What's up with that?"

Ah, good spotting, keen observer!

When a copyright infringement notice is issued, TPT take down the material. They do not review it. They do not make any calls about it. The get a copyright email, they take down the material regardless.

And yes, I'm sure. I emailed them and asked. They have a great response time, by the way!

That means that where they say "What's the URL?". You can't say "Oh, it's here" because it doesn't have a URL anymore. It's gone. The thumbnails and titles are still in my dashboard, but they're greyed out. Unclickable. No link. Nothing.

And so, when they responded after my submission, they said "Hey, you actually need the URL here. Try again."

Well, luckily I'm computer savvy enough to know where to find the URL. If you haven't made the connection yet, it's in the complainant's complaint. Go copy and paste it from there. My follow-up counter claim was a bit longer:

Any issues with the process?

Oh I'm glad you asked!

Privacy is a big thing. I don't want people knowing too much about who I am. I gotta keep that mysterious air about me, ya know?

Something that TPT asks for in both a copyright claim and a counter claim is your contact information:

Your contact information, including your full name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address;

Because the person filled out the copyright claim, I now know their full name, their address, their phone number, and their person email address. Of course, I'm not going to do anything with this. I'm keeping my eyes away from that info as much as I can! I respect everyone's privacy, not just my own!

But yeah, I now know all their information.

In my counter, I wrote that I will not be including that information as it's a breach of privacy to send to another user.

When I got that response I spoke of earlier saying "hey, fix the highlighted bits", they didn't highlight the contact details where I explained I'm not handing over my personal information to another person. So I guess it's all good.

Tip: Don't hand over your personal information in a copyright claim! Just say you wont allow it to be forwarded to the other party, but is available to the TPT company on request.

Oh wow... I just realised how to make this really bad for a poor victim! Just send a copyright claim, they'll file a counter and BAM! You know enough about them to steal their identity. Yeah, don't do that!

That's pretty scary, actually.


What next?

Now we wait. The complainant has ten days to respond to TPT's forwarded email to them. Their decisions are to either do nothing or to follow up with legal action. As I said earlier, TPT don't actually do anything with copyright claims except take stuff down, forward and reply to emails, and put stuff back up if required. That's not them being lazy. That's what they say the laws says they need to do. It's up to the consumers, not the platform, to take action.

Tip: If you get a copyright notice, don't panic. You'll lose the income for a while, but the sooner you make your counter, then sooner your material will be back up. The other party is unlikely to continue with further legal action because it's too costly!

If the person chooses not to follow up with further legal action, which would cost them stress, time, and money, then TPT will put my resources back up in ten days. If they choose to take further legal action, I'll let you know how it goes. It'd be very interesting to know how suing for copyright works across countries.

If the person is smart, they won't follow up with further legal action. It's not worth their time, money, stress, or effort.

In the meantime, I am not getting any income from those resources that I spent the better part of a week calculating, programming, designing, and marketing. It makes it very difficult when we have a new baby and are living off one income since my wife's maternity leave is finished.

But hey, gotta keep thinking positive!

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