Why Would Anybody Share Anything On ShareMyLesson or BetterLesson?

4 min read

As discussed yesterday, the terms of use on BetterLesson are confusing to the point of hostile to end users. The issues on BetterLesson could easily be the result of oversight, and they also have said that they are looking into it.

Both sites are partnered with a teacher's union: the American Federation of Teachers partners with ShareMyLesson, while the National Education Association partners with BetterLesson.

While the terms on ShareMyLesson are more direct, they still do not respect the choices of content authors. ShareMyLesson claims full rights to do whatever it wants with any content in the site; this is defined in the "Rights In Posted Content" section of ShareMyLesson's Terms of Service:

With respect to all Content you post on the Service, you grant SML a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sub-licensable right and license 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 Service, 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 SML, including the execution of deeds and documents, at our request.

This section goes on to deny the rights of creators any recourse if their work is copied:

Even if you subsequently see or learn of a presentation, sound recording, composition, demo, idea, script, drawing, motion picture, photograph, film, video or any other content which appears to incorporate any idea or concept or include anything similar or identical to that contained in any Content you or anyone else submits, that is purely coincidental and unavoidable.

In the "Use of SML Material" section, the owners of the site appear to prohibit such basic behavior as linking to content on the site without the written consent of the site owners:

All articles, information and other materials contained, presented and/or made available on, through or in connection with the Service are subject to copyright, trade mark right and/or other intellectual property right owned by or licensed to SML. You are prohibited from reproducing, extracting, providing links to or otherwise communicating or making available to third parties any part of the content of the Service without SML’s written consent. You acknowledge that, by making use of the Service, you are agreeing to comply with this prohibition and that any breach thereof is likely to result in legal proceedings being issued against you.

Given that this web site exists on the internet, has "share" in it's title and url, and is predicated on the notion of people sharing, the prohibition on links seems expressly absurd.

People uploading content into the site have no licensing options, at all. For people looking to reuse any information on ShareMyLesson, the terms of use explicitly forbid it. The "Use of Service" section expressly forbids any reuse, and repeats the prohibition on linking:

You are prohibited from reproducing, copying, modifying, renting, leasing, loaning, selling, distributing, exploiting, extracting, providing links to, creating derivative works of or otherwise communicating or making available to third parties any part of the Content of the Service without SML’s prior written consent.

Why would a teacher upload anything to either ShareMyLesson or BetterLesson? The only compelling answer (aside from not understanding the rights they are giving away) is convenience, but both sites do a poor job respecting the rights of their community. More importantly, why are unions partnering with sites that do such a shoddy job respecting the rights of teachers?

Both sites - ShareMyLesson and BetterLesson - would be better off allowing their members the freedom to choose a license. Creative Commons licenses would be preferrable. Then, the terms of service could be adjusted to respect the terms of the supported licenses.

But for now, given the terms of both sites, I can't see any compelling reason why teachers should join these sites or share their work on them. The union leadership advocating the use of these sites should stop, immediately, until these sites start to respect the rights of teachers. If a teacher is looking for a place to share, OERCommons or Wordpress.com are both better choices.

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