Online education marketplace Udemy has gained a bit of infamy after a spate of cases in which the platform has been found to host and sell pirated educational content.
According to Tony Wan of edSurge, the issue was brought to light over Thanksgiving weekend when web security specialist Troy Hunt discovered that someone had pirated his course on “Ethical Hacking” and was selling it on Udemy. He had created the videos for Pluralsight, but the seller had edited them so that neither he nor the site received any credit. As Amar Toor of The Verge explains, the courses were being sold in the name of another author.
To make matters worse, Motherboard’s Sarah Jeong shares that the course was “copied so extensively that the copycat instructor’s ‘name’ on Udemy was ‘Roy Hunt.’” The pirate had not changed anything about the content except for the introduction. Even Hunt’s voice was still on the video, and the course cost Udemy students $56.
Dave Lee of BBC News shares that Hunt is not the only one complaining about their content being stolen and sold on Udemy:
“Several experts and academics have expressed anger at finding their courses uploaded to the site and offered up for sale, without their permission… Rob Conery discovered that his programming courses had been reposted – but sometimes with identifying information intentionally removed.”
Conery told Lee that:
“Piracy happens, but I’ve never seen it rewarded so openly… so brazenly. I work really hard on these videos and someone just stole it and is selling it on Udemy.”
Not only was Udemy selling Conery’s course for a discounted price of $15, (down from his usual price of $24) but a Facebook advertisement was also promoting the deal. With 923 enrollments, even at the discounted price, the course brought in almost $14,000 on Udemy. That’s money that Conery feels should have gone to him. The person who uploaded Conery’s content did not even bother to remove the watermarks.
Instructors who wish to sell their content on Udemy simply have to sign up and upload the materials. They can charge anything they want and can keep one hundred percent of the profit if they bring in a student with their own advertising. Udemy advertises for each course offered and charges nothing to host content. If the instructor makes a sell to a student through Udemy’s advertisement, the site keeps fifty percent of the profit, and the other half goes to the instructor.
Of course, if the materials are pirated then none of the profit goes to the original creator. During its last round of funding, Udemy brought in $65 million, which brought its total to $113 million.
In order to report that content has been pirated and sold on Udemy, one must join the site, which Conery describes as “sleazy.” Although it is possible for those who have not joined to send an email to report cases of copyright infringement, this is not explained on Udemy. After being flagged on Twitter by Hunt, his content was still available for sale on Udemy for over twelve hours after he had received a reply from the site.
In a statement to The Next Web, Udemy said:
“We take intellectual property rights seriously and act quickly to remove content when we are notified of any potential copyright infringement.”
Udemy has promised to review their copyright processes.