Online education site Udemy is under fire for stealing content from YouTubers for its paid courses. After one YouTuber spoke out last week, Udemy removed an infringing course, but others say there’s still work to be done.
YouTuber Chris Hawkes, who specializes in videos on programming and web development, uploaded a video this week accusing online course company Udemy of pirating his content for its site. In a brief YouTube video on the matter, Hawkes highlighted how a paid course listed on the website included one of Hawkes’ own videos on the programming language Python. Hawkes claims he was not asked for permission to use the video, and characterized Udemy’s use of it as content theft. Udemy is a paid platform for MOOCs—massive open online courses—on a variety of topics that boasts 65,000 courses and 15 million students, so Hawkes figured he was owed some sort of penalty for its use of his content without attribution.
Or, in his words, “Udemy seems like kind of a sleazy-ass company.”
Udemy was built as a platform to allow people to compile their own online video courses on a variety of subjects, then profit from those courses by charging tuition to people who want to view them, or give them away for free if so desired.
This is not the first time Udemy has been criticized for using other creators’ content without permission. Back in 2015, the company came under fire when a video by Troy Hunt for Pluralsight, a tech training course site, was posted on Udemy with his name and watermark removed.
— Troy Hunt (@troyhunt) November 27, 2015
According to the Verge, Hunt’s publicizing of the matter led Udemy to remove the video, although it was nonetheless on the site for some time. Udemy CEO Dennis Yang subsequently wrote on his blog that no actual money had been exchanged for Hunt’s course.
It’s clear that someone has taken notice of the recent controversy regarding Hawkes, judging from the look of Udemy’s Wikipedia page. Early Sunday, Feb. 18, somebody edited the page, inserting a reference to content theft in the opening paragraph.
Hunt himself highlighted Hawkes’ story on his Twitter account on Sunday, calling Udemy’s attitude toward piracy “a lousy attitude.” The company’s official account responded, saying it “took down an infringing course” (indeed, it was the one from Hawkes’ video) and included a link to the site’s official terms of service for instructors.
“A case”? You’re fully aware that this keeps happening again and again and that many people – including myself – have had their content plagiarised. There’s a problem somewhere you seem unable (or unwilling) to fix.
— Troy Hunt (@troyhunt) February 18, 2018
Suffice to say he did not seem convinced. Hawkes, for his part, released a follow-up video on Sunday afternoon saying he’s “not losing sleep over it” but he expects more. “Who is this organization? … It’s bullshit, because they could have easily verified that it wasn’t legit.” He says he plans to reach out to another creator whose content was lifted for the course to see if they’re interested in taking action against Udemy as a whole.