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Amazon's Rollout of Inspire Reveals Delicate Relationship Between OERs, Copyright Infringement 

Amazon's Roll-Out of Inspire Reveals Delicate Relationship Between OERs and Copyright Infringement 

Shortly after Amazon announced it was expanding its reach in education by providing teachers with a marketplace for open educational resources through Amazon Inspire, EdSurge labeled the roll-out as “sputtering on the launch pad.”

But Inspire appeared to be functioning flawlessly; no usability or tech problems to be reported. So what was wrong?

"One day after Amazon announced that it would introduce Amazon Inspire, a free instructional resources site where teachers could share lesson plans, the company said it had removed three items from the site after educators complained that the products were copyrighted materials,” reported The New York Times.

Moreover, in Amazon’s screenshots sent to journalists for publication, two of the resources included were developed by authors for TeachersPayTeachers. TpT lets authors of lesson plans sell them on its marketplace for a fee, so its understandable why it raises concerns that in Amazon’s press screenshot it made the big mistake of including copyrighted materials.

According to The New York Times, despite copyright infringement claims being few, the early problems indicate that Amazon did "not have an effective procedure to independently vet the copyright status of materials that teachers uploaded and shared.”

The fiasco has left many educators skeptical going forward. EdSurge shared comments of one such skeptical educator:

"There a number of resources available on the site which are clear copyright infringement not uploaded by the owners of the material. Rather than open source, it strikes me as a pirated material market that Amazon collects ad revenue and buyer habits on,” read educator Laura Driscoll’s comment, EdSurge said.

Ouch. Unfortunately, Amazon’s early struggle calls to attention one of the biggest problems with the rapidly expanding OER movement: monitoring and regulating copyright infringement.

As Lou McGill pointed out in a post for PBWorks.com, copyright issues are most rampant when third party materials are used as OERs, which was exactly the case in the Amazon debacle.

McGill says getting copyright sorted is crucial before taking on any OER endeavor, something the people over at Amazon would have benefited reading before delving in.

Copyright infringement offenses through OERs, McGill says, is especially tricky because it can effect any user who unsuspectingly shares the resource.

"If a successful resource is used by a thousand people, if infringing material has to be removed, this will affect all those users (with them having to remove the materials, and having the possibility of action against them for infringement),” McGill said.

"This will be the case whether or not they know that the resource contained copyright infringing material. It is therefore important that the creator of the OER ensures that it truly is an ‘open’ resource, by diligently ensuring that a valid license is applied to the work.”

It’s clear that the people of Amazon didn’t fully understand the delicate relationship of OERs and copyright before rolling-out their first marketplace for teachers, but as we all know in the education community- you live and you learn.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

7/12/2016

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