TPT Copyright and What You Need to Know

In the past decade, Teachers Pay Teachers has become “the World’s Most Popular Online Marketplace for Original Educational Resources.”  This year more than ever, teachers are relying on the platform to find quality resources to help support remote learning, a hybrid model, or in-person learning.  TPT is helping teachers everywhere survive the 2020-2021 school year!

It is important to note that these products are copyrighted and have Terms of Use.  They are also protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Yet, some teachers feel it’s okay to “share” what they purchase among departments, with teammates, or online.  I felt compelled to write a blog post addressing this after reading this post in a TPT Sellers Facebook Group I belong to.  Take a look…


Sadly, this is happening online and in schools and it is NOT okay.  We need to educate teachers on the importance of respecting TPT Copyright so that this amazing community will continue to thrive!  In this post, I will discuss 4 things to keep in mind when it comes to TPT Copyright.

1.  Let’s Define “Sharing”

First, let’s discuss the term “sharing.”  I place the word in quotations because this is what some teachers (like the teacher above) call it when sending or downloading copyrighted TPT files.  I am here to tell you that this is NOT sharing, my friends.  This is stealing – it is no different that walking out of a store and not paying for something.  I’m sure that teachers who have done this would never steal from a store.  However, for some reason, they don’t think twice about giving away someone’s work.  Calling this “sharing” only justifies the action.

2.  Teachers May Have the Best Intentions

I believe all teachers are good people.  In fact, my teacher friends are the best people I know.  Educators who are file sharing may have the best of intentions at heart.  So, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a minute.  Perhaps, they want to look like they are team players who are contributing to the group.  Maybe, they just don’t think about it at all because they are not looking at it from the seller’s perspective.

Imagine this scenario if you will…One teacher raves about a resource she purchased for TPT for $5.  Her teammates ask her if she will “share.”  The teacher then sends the file to ten teachers in the district in an email or posts on a Google Drive.  Her colleagues reply, “Thanks for sharing.”  Chances are you’ve seen something like this happen.

So, what just happened here?  The teacher ignored and violated the Terms of Use and Copyright.  She is wrong for sending it, and the others are equally wrong for violating copyright by downloading it.  The bottom line is teachers do not have a right to share what they did not create.  Nor do others on the receiving end have permission to download a file they did not purchase.  We teach honesty as one of the first traits in our Character Education program.  Just as we teach our students to be honest, we need to lead by example.

3.  How does Copyright Infringement affect TPT Sellers?

Illegal file sharing hurts the TPT community.  In the situation above, the seller made $5 when he/she should have made $55 because 11 people are using the file.  As a seller myself, I know how much work goes into creating products.  Some products take us weeks, months, or even a year to create.   Imagine a resource that you spent your entire summer creating being shared without your permission.  Knowing that this is happening discourages so many wonderful sellers.

4.  Let’s Educate the Educators!

So how can we stop illegal file sharing from happening?  Maybe some teachers honestly don’t see the harm in sharing resources, so we need to educate them to do the right thing.  Speak up if you see this happening, and gently remind your colleagues about copyright.  Here are some things to keep in mind…

Does this apply only to TPT?

No, this applies to anything digital that is sold online – digital courses, e-books, etc.  These are all protected by The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and should not be shared under any circumstances without permission from the author.

Is it okay to share freebies?

Nope!  Terms of Use apply to freebies as well.  I have seen this happen a lot where a freebie was shared, and the TOU in the file specifically stated, “Please don’t give away my work.”  Here, I truly believe the teacher thinks, “Well it was free, so it must be okay to share it.”   Instead of sharing the file or a paper copy, again, please direct teacher friends to the seller’s store so that they can download the freebie themselves.

What is okay to share?

It is okay to share files YOU create – your original content.  You also have the option on Teachers Pay Teachers to purchase additional licenses at a discounted rate.  However, you must purchase one license for each teacher that will be using the file.  When someone asks you to share a file, please instead share the link to the resource on TPT so that others can purchase it themselves.  In short, please remember to share the link NOT the file.  It is also okay to share links to websites, YouTube videos, apps, and blogs.

I hope that this post has provided some clarity on TPT Copyrighted resources.  Let’s work together to empower the TPT community, and encourage fellow educators to do the right thing!

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