Coursehero scrapes your stuff and sells it

I happened to come across a website which seems to have grabbed a bunch of files from my website, and is now offering them for sale to college students. It seems to be a nice combination of “Cheating is wrong, but here’s a bunch of other people’s work”, and “We’ll sell you stuff we found for free online”. Two great business models come together! It looks like it’s all a (poorly programmed) automated system that scrapes the net for academic-related material (for example, searching for published term papers, study notes, etc), slaps it behind a paywall, and then promises students a better grade if they sign up. I’m not sure what the actual cost/value of each paper would be, but cruising through their terms-of-use nets this info:

$95.40/yr
$59.85/ quarter (you know, for all those colleges operating on the quarterly schedule…)
$39.95/mo

These rates apparently get you 10 PDF downloads per day. You can also upload any of your content that their auto-scraper happens to miss, but the terms of use say that they don’t pay you anything for doing this (maybe you get a discount of some kind?). Their auto-scraper appears to have a hard time parsing and sorting the stuff it grabs, as it has apparently decided that I am a class (actually that would be kind of funny… GABE101, students learn how to remodel free boats and build potato guns 😛 )

coursehero_screenshot

It also seems to be pretty opportunistic in what it grabs. For example, documents associated with me include everything from actual class content (Powerpoints and notes that I had online), to random content from my website (resume, text files, etc) which would be useless to most students. Yep, you can pay $95.40 for the privilege of reading a .txt file on dumpster diving that I wrote over a decade ago! This will definitely help you pass GABE101, as the midterm grade is based on what you can find in the trash.

coursehero_screenshot_2 coursehero_screenshot_3

All in all, this site seems about as useless as any of those 500 pages you get when you search a phone number (Join OUR phonebook, the NUMBER ONE place for phone-numbers-stolen-from-everyone-else’s number one phonebook!) Googling around a bit, I found some more info on this coursehero operation (these are opinions or reviews from other websites:)

“Coursehero probably isn’t worth the money. The vast majority of the material has been stolen from faculty/university websites. It may be that all the material for your particular school is freely available on the school website.
As anecdotal evidence of this fact there are forms and reports from the Dean’s office of my school on coursehero. The website is a copyright infringing scam to steal your money. It makes me mad that they are stealing money from poor students.”
(From http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100125160855AAu6HwM)

“They are posting stolen content that’s why when you pay and log in, you don’t see most of it because they are being hit hard with DMCA take down letters. This site won’t be up long. Don’t waste your money.”

(from http://m.rateitall.com/i-2055646-course-hero.aspx)

“Yep.  My college has a department named FILES.  Who knew?  Apparently the FILES department teaches something having to do with field exercises.
Yike. To me, this sounds like it is information scraped from unsecured databases or Web site directories. I’d contact the school and let them know that they might have a security issue.”

“I’ll bet there will be lawsuits — they’re clearly just scooping up whatever’s free and available and charging for it.  My stuff’s not open access, so it’s not there.  Remind me to put my name on my handouts….”
(from http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=63326.10;wap2)

Their terms of service includes a rather clunky method for claiming copyright infringement, so I decided to take a different approach. Waiting to see if they even respond… If not then I guess I can go all DMCA on it 😛

Subject: Content usage From: Gabe Emerson <> To: info@coursehero.com

Hi, I notice you’re offering a collection of my work for sale on your site. The materials appear to have been scraped from my website without permission, as I have not had an account with your site and did not provide the content. Please provide me with a list of access and sales records for my content, and I will send you an invoice for the use of this material. Specifically, some of my material seems to be listed under “Course: EMERS089” http://www.coursehero.com/sitemap/schools/1241-Minnesota/courses/774509-EMERS089/ I am not sure if you have additional materials as well. Sincerely, -Gabriel Emerson

Update: Coursehero wrote back asking me to verify in a more “formal” manner that the files were mine, and were used without permission. I responded, and they appear to have removed them (at least, the ones that I pointed out, since I don’t have an account, I don’t know if anything else of mine is on there).

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2 Responses to Coursehero scrapes your stuff and sells it

  1. […] previously posted that the Coursehero.com “study help” website was selling old coursework online, and […]

  2. […] “is course hero worth it” (No) […]

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