Student Lecture Notes infringe Professor’s Copyright?


Sounds almost surreal
… taking notes in class is copyright infringement? I know this case is not that clear cut, the Professor is partnering with an e-book manufacturer and they’re trying to sue an organisation that pays students to take good notes which are then published. The whole thing seems to hinge on the notion that notes taken in class are “derivative works”

“Students are buying a particular note packet to do well on a particular exam by a particular professor,” Sullivan said. “The commercial appeal of the product is that it is a copy or close derivative work of that professor’s intellectual property.”
But if a professor’s lectures are copyrighted, aren’t students already infringing just by taking the notes in the first place?
Yes, Sullivan answers, student notes do infringe, but they are protected infringement.
“That’s absolutely fair use,” Sullivan said.

What if a student took notes, but didn’t copy anything verbatim from a professor’s lecture, and then decided to publish the notes online or sell them?

“While that may not be slavish copy, the notes would be a derivative work and a copyright holder has the exclusive right to create derivative notes,” Sullivan said.

Whilst I recognise that this is an attempt to protect the intellectual property of the Professor, and the whole business around paying students to make good notes which are then published so lazy students who dont go to class can benefit from them is of course ethically and morally questionnable … but it seems to me that this lawsuit has wider implications … for example:

How long will it be before students will have to sign an EULA before walking into a class room? Maybe I just don’t get it but this feels so wrong.

1 thought on “Student Lecture Notes infringe Professor’s Copyright?

  1. It raises a question of how disappointed a professor would be if no one took notes in their lectures.

    “Why are none of you writing anything down? Why should I bother?”

    “Sir, we don’t want to get done for plagiarism.”

    The thing is, these notes are being published for a profit, so it is a different matter entirely. Unfortunately, from this blogged perspective, it looks like they’re fighting from the wrong side. It shouldn’t be that students’ note-taking is breaking copyright (It couldn’t be, that’s what professors exist for, and they know this when giving lectures.) but that the selling on for a profit of a professor’s IP is not fair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *