[A2k] Erica Perez: Do Students Have Copyright to Their Own Notes?

Andrew Rens andrewrens at gmail.com
Mon Feb 6 16:19:44 PST 2012

This seems like a very strange thing for the cash strapped University of
California system to spend money and energy on.

MIT have been giving away course materials for years and all the
indications are that it has served to raise the profile of MIT and it
certainly hasn't reduced the number of students trying to get in to MIT.

If the University of California is concerned that students are being
exploited by the commercial services they can require lecturers to put all
their lecture notes online free and thus completely undercut the commercial

If lecturers not only made their notes available as Open Educational
Resources but gave students credit for contributing to those resources then
this kind of pettiness wouldn't pre-occupy universities which have bigger
problems .

Of course some of the resistance by lecturers to making their materials
openly available has do do with anxieties about how their peers may
criticise their teaching materials.


On 6 February 2012 12:03, Manon Ress <manon.ress at keionline.org> wrote:

> February 6, 2012 | 7:00 AM | By Tina Barseghian
> Do Students Have Copyright to Their Own Notes?
> http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/02/do-students-have-copyright-to-their-own-notes/
> By Erica Perez, California Watch
> California State University and University of California campuses are
> taking new steps to limit what students can do with their class notes:
> At least one CSU Chico student recently was reported to judicial
> affairs for selling notes to a website, while a newly updated UC
> Berkeley policy restricts how students share their notes with others.
> The policies raise questions about whether instructors or students
> have copyrights to the notes students take in class. While the
> California Education Code prohibits students and others from selling
> class notes – and many campuses have policies that also ban
> unauthorized note-selling – critics say students, not instructors, own
> the copyright to their own notes.
> Some university officials say faculty members have the right to
> protect their professional reputation – they don’t want inaccurate or
> low-quality notes to be attributed to them. But others say the
> university policies are restricting students’ free speech.
> “Given the amount of money students are paying to go to school right
> now, to … confront them with these policies and say, ‘You don’t even
> have the right to use your own notes any way you want,’ seems to be
> the wrong message to be sending,” said Jason M. Schultz, assistant
> clinical professor of law at UC Berkeley and director of the
> university’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic.
> The CSU and UC systems have made efforts to shut down private
> note-selling websites for some time. As early as 1999, the
> note-selling website Versity.com sparked officials’ furor at UC
> Berkeley. In fall 2010, CSU sent a cease-and-desist order to
> NoteUtopia, which allows students to upload course notes, study guides
> and outlines to a website, then set a price and earn cash for their
> work.
> “There’s a First Amendment issue as well. If I take notes in class,
> and I want to share them, that’s speech.”
> More recently, both UC and CSU have sent cease-and-desist letters to
> Notehall, a note-selling website owned by Santa Clara-based Chegg.
> CSU sent its letter to Chegg in January after at least one student was
> reported to student judicial affairs for selling notes through the
> service. CSU Chico’s student newspaper, The Orion, reported that two
> students were referred to judicial affairs, but Lisa Root, the
> university’s director of student judicial affairs, said there has been
> only one case involving the note-selling policy in the past three
> years. She could not comment on the specific case. The one student
> named in the Orion story declined to talk to a reporter Wednesday.
> It’s unclear whether the student was sanctioned or whether other
> universities in California have sought disciplinary action against
> students who have sold their notes to third parties.
> The letter from CSU to Chegg cited CSU’s own student policies and the
> California Education Code, both of which prohibit selling,
> distributing or publishing class notes for a commercial purpose.
> Notehall’s website indicates the company is no longer accepting notes
> from CSU or UC students. Users who try to upload notes for CSU or UC
> campuses see an error message.
> “Unfortunately, No More Notes!” the message begins. “The California
> State University Student Conduct Code prohibits students from selling
> class notes, and subjects violators to potential disciplinary action.
> Out of respect for this policy, Notehall does not offer its note
> taking services at your school. We apologize for the inconvenience,
> and share your disappointment with this CSU policy decision.”
> In a written statement, a spokeswoman for Chegg said the company is
> fully compliant with California law and is “working to ensure that our
> services fall within what is acceptable from one state to the next.”
> But Berkeley’s Schultz questioned whether states can prevent students
> from selling their notes. Instructors have almost no intellectual
> property rights to what students write down in class, he said. Faculty
> members may have intellectual property in the books they write,
> articles they publish and even possibly in the lecture notes they
> write for themselves, but students own the copyright on their own
> notes, he said.
> “Copyright is a federal law, and generally when state laws conflict
> with federal laws, federal law wins,” Schultz said. “Perhaps more
> important is there’s a First Amendment issue as well. If I take notes
> in class, and I want to share them, that’s speech.”
> UC’s legal office also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Notehall in
> November 2010, prompted at least in part by complaints at UC Davis
> about Notehall, said Jan Carmikle, senior intellectual property
> officer at UC Davis.
> The university told Notehall that the company was violating California
> law, potentially infringing on copyright law, and encouraging students
> to violate university policy and risk discipline.
> Carmikle said many professors and instructors at UC Davis who found
> notes for their classes on Notehall were indignant about it.
> “For a lot of them it’s a reputational quality-control issue. They
> take a lot of pride in giving really high-quality lectures,” she said.
> “If a D-student can put these notes up, that’s not good to anybody.
> It’s not good for other students and not good for the instructor.”
> Schultz argued that faculty members can easily address quality issues
> by making clear to students that they should not trust the accuracy of
> unofficial class notes.
> He described the policy as a trade-off between the cost of suppressing
> student enthusiasm for learning and sharing knowledge against the
> benefit of protecting instructors’ reputations – something they can
> achieve through other means.
> “I just don’t think the trade-off is a very good trade-off for public
> education,” he said.
> At UC Berkeley, a joint academic senate/administrative task force
> recently revised the university policy on course notes. The new policy
> [PDF], which took effect in January, continues to ban the unauthorized
> sale of class notes. It also says students can share notes with other
> students only if they’re both enrolled in the class at the same time.
> In theory, that means a student could face disciplinary action for
> sharing his or her notes from last semester with a student currently
> enrolled in the same class.
> Philip Stark, a member of the task force and professor of statistics
> at UC Berkeley, said the policy should have included more careful
> definitions of “course notes.” At issue, he said, are transcript-style
> notes, not a student’s own synthesis of lecture material.
> “I can’t imagine any action being taken against a student who says,
> ‘Here’s the bullet items from this class.’ That’s not what this is
> intended to address,” he said. “It’s intended to address someone
> representing something as the instructor’s words.”
> Stark, who is also vice chairman of the statistics department, said
> the policy is aimed at maintaining the integrity – and accuracy – of
> the instructor’s lecture.
> “It’s my words, it’s my performance, it’s my material. I want you to
> learn from it, but I don’t want you to represent to someone else that
> these are my words if I haven’t had a chance to vet them,” he said.
> Schultz said he’s concerned the universities are moving in the wrong
> direction.
> “It’s a policy against sharing knowledge. The Internet and networked
> technologies have been disrupting, one by one, every business model
> that has tried to put gates around information,” he said. “These
> universities have to decide how they’re going to handle this. They can
> embrace it or suppress it.”
> --
> Manon Anne Ress
> Knowledge Ecology International
> 1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
> Washington, DC 20009 USA
> http://www.keionline.org
> manon.ress at keionline.org
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Andrew Rens

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