By: +David Herron; Date: February 22, 2018
A semi-pro YouTuber found some of his instructional videos had been incorporated in a Udemy course. The response exposes a dark underbelly to Udemy that should cause one worries - how many of Udemy's courses are using stolen content? Does this raise a question whether Udemy is worthy of our support as customers?
A general principle is that when we spend money on a thing, we are supporting that thing. So when we buy a course from Udemy, we are supporting Udemy's existence. I think most or all of us hope for honesty and true value, so to learn that some courses in the Udemy catalog frauduently include stolen content is very troubling.
The issue arose about a week ago - A video posted on a YouTube channel named "Chris Hawkes" (presumably the guy in the videos is named Chris Hawkes) in which he showed a video in a Python course on Udemy containing one of his own videos.
This guy is a prolific video maker specializing in tutorial videos seemingly related to software development. He says (I haven't checked this) his body of work includes several full courses on Python and other programming languages.
What Chris Hawkes showed is a Udemy course with nearly 12,000 subscribers, containing a video directly out of his Python tutorial series. Hawkes was not credited anywhere in the video on Udemy, no link of any kind to his online properties existed, etc. In other words - simple blatant theft of his content.
The video in question has over 100,000 views on his channel. Who knows how many times the copy on Udemy was viewed, which directly translates to fewer views and diminished income on the official version.
He also mentions someone who'd done videos on Pluralsight, whose videos had been scrubbed of identifying marks and inserted into a Udemy course. In other words, this instance of theft in a Udemy course is not an isolated case.
Udemy is a big operation. They should be aware that some of their Instructors are going to skirt the edges of legitimacy, and therefore Udemy should have some kind of validation effort to prevent this sort of theft. YouTube has several processes to detect stolen content - Udemy should do something themselves.
Udemy claims to have over 65,000 courses in their catalog. That catalog does include some top notch courses of high value. In other words, Udemy is becoming a powerhouse in the online training marketplace. Which behooves Udemy to make the effort to ensure legitimacy in the course catalog offered through Udemy.
I can say as a Udemy customer that I've not bought any course that gave any hint of using stolen content. In every course I've taken, the instruction was by a clearly defined set of people. But any time I buy a course on Udemy, I'm carefully looking at the courses weighing among several factors including whether the course seems legitimate.
In retrospect that care I've been taking to choose courses on Udemy indicates I had an intuitive sense that something wasn't right at Udemy. I browse the course catalog half expecting to get screwed by weak courses that aren't going to teach anything of value. I'm happy to say the courses I have chosen weren't that bad - that is, I haven't taken a course that was an outright waste of time. In most cases the courses have been interesting and informative, with a couple where the instructor was dreadfully boring and not so informative but not a waste of time.
But - clearly Mr. Hawkes' report indicates not all is right in the land of Udemy.