Are College Lectures Covered By Copyright?

from the careful-when-you-take-notes dept

For a while now, I've been meaning to do a post on how the very idea of our education system seems to go against what copyright maximalists believe concerning the ownership of ideas. After all, so much of what any of us knows we learned from someone else in schools -- yet, we don't feel the need to credit our second grade teacher every time we do basic arithmetic. Unfortunately, it looks like the maximalist view is moving more into some college campuses. Against Monopoly points us to a story of a textbook publisher who is suing a company called Einstein's Notes that takes notes in classes and sells them to students. Most colleges have services like this, but the publisher, Faulkner Press, is claiming that Einstein's Notes is violating its own copyright and the professor's copyright on the lectures.

Of course, we thought that the purpose of a textbook was to educate people so that they would naturally take that information and do more with it. Some may claim that Faulkner's claim makes sense since Einstein's Notes are selling the note taking service, meaning that it's "making money" on the lectures. However, that's pretty weak when you think about it. After all, if that were true, wouldn't professors (and textbook publishers) then have a claim to anyone's earnings that were based on what they learned from the lecture and the text? I still have a bunch of textbooks from college that I consult at times. If I use something that I learned from an economics professor or textbook to help build my business, have I violated a copyright? Where do you draw the line?


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 6:44pm

    I am not a lawyer

    You can not copyright a fact.
    You can not patent a number, an algorithm, or a thought process.
    You can not trademark ah ... help me out here.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 7:02pm

    My professors all videotape their lectures as we usually have distance-learning students at the national labs taking the class. However, we are not allowed to download the videos, we can only stream them, because the university is concerned that we may distribute the videos...

    I guess they are worried that people may get their hands the material and not enroll in the university...

    Or that other universities may copy the lectures?

    This is stupid.

     

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    Anne, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    ADA is the trump card

    I have an easy legal out for Einstein's Notes. They're providing an essential service for the disabled students who can't take their own notes in class. The right of the student to have full access to higher education will outweigh the professor and the textbook company's whiny claims about copyright infringement. Einstein's Notes is providing an essential service.

    I'm partially deaf and wish I'd had access to a service like this when I was in college.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 7:18pm

    The employment agreement for some universities stipulate they own the rights for any products created with university resources on university time. So, technically, the university would control any copyright on a lecture, not the faculty.

     

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    MLS, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 8:52pm

    Wow......

    As a Florida resident and an attorney who has practiced all facets of IP law for more years than I care to admit, I have to say that this article piqued my interest.

    After wading through the complaint filed with the federal district court, all appendices, Florida Law, The University of Florida policy implementing the pertinent section of Florida Law (Section 1004.23 of the Florida Statutes), and other related sources, all I can say is that I am flabbergasted by this situation and do encourage the alleged infringer to retain counsel who actually specializes in this area of law. Based upon what I have read I have serious doubts that that this complaint will to any significant degree get past a motion by the defendant to have the case dismissed.

    Even I, one who does support IP law as useful and appropriate in many instances, have to scratch my head and wonder just what the heck the two professors and the publisher are thinking. I can only begin to imagine the PR fiasco that will surely follow once this situation is brought to the attention of the Florida Legislature and the Florida Universities Board of Governers.

    Excuse me, but I have to stop here in order to shake my head in amazement!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 10:18pm

    You can copyright a textbook, so why not a lecture? They're just different media.

    I don't think that copyrighting texts/lectures has much to do with protecting information as it does the presentation of it. All of the information found in a typical text book is completely free already, but starts out scattered in journals and papers (and other books). It's an enormous task to bring that information into a text, and to do it in a fashion that can be absorbed. A monetary incentive for doing an otherwise thankless job is probably appropriate. Imagine spending a couple years of your life organizing good lecture notes or a text book, just to find that some snot nosed kid was copying your work and getting paid for it... a transcription service for people -in- the course doesn't seem so bad, but broadly disseminating to people not paying for the course seems wrong.

    I deeply admire the type who do this for free (wikipedia/wikibooks), but you can't fault people who want to get paid for it.

     

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    Ken, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 10:51pm

    Poster #6: sure, you can copyright a textbook, but you can't copyright notes I take from the text book and give to someone else. If I directly copy sections of text, you might have copyright infringement, but not unless it's verbatim.

    The whole idea is ridiculous, unless you're copying it word-for-word, there's not even a possible case here.

     

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    chiropetra, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 10:56pm

    @1 "Help me out here..."
    How about... You cannot copyright a paraphrase.

    This is exactly the same as a newspaper reporter sitting in on the class and writing a story from the lecture. In lawyerspeak those notes are original work product and belong to the taker.

    (I am not a lawyer, but I was a newspaper reporter. I took plenty of notes on classes, lectures, etc. and reproduced them in print in great detail.)

    This is idiotic.

     

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    Doug Robb, Apr 4th, 2008 @ 11:39pm

    In Australia (and we tend to follow US IP law from what I see) you have the provision of 'fair use' which essentially lets you directly use up to 10 percent of copyrighted material for specific purposes - study being one of them.

    So in the first instance the professor must not breach copyright of the book by using it in an unlawful manner.

    Now if the Professor hasn't breached any copyrights in creating his lecture then it becomes a matter between him and Einstien Notes as to whether they are breaching his copyright.

    The Professor being the creater of the work (lecture) owns the copyright of his work unless there is a specific work contract that assigns the copyright to his employer (the University).

    There is an implied right for students to use his entire work for the purposes that it was created - study, take notes, research, keep as reference etc.

    It is not clear to me that this right would extend to a third party like Einstien Notes so if I were EN I would negotiate directly with the good Lecturers and offer them a royalty on their work. The book publisher doesn't have a leg to stand on in my opinion so don't bother with them.

    doug

     

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    your average Joe, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 12:27am

    I side with the professor

    It seems to me that the professor has a number of reasons to complain.

    He does some research work on his own. He does a performance (i.e., he gives a lecture). He is paid for the performance (because that's his job). Any derivative work (such as a book or a printed set of lecture notes) should remain in his own copyright unless explicitly given to the University as part of the contract.

    In particular, I believe someone taking notes in his class could be in many ways considered as a bootleg recorder at ta concert. There could be differences between the bootleg and the official recording that could give reasons to think of atwo unique works (e.g., the recording angle, the noise from the audience, and so on), but they are usually not sufficient to give dignity and legality to a bootleg recording. Even if the recording are taken with the permission of the venue's owner.

    So if I am playing at a pub, and the pub's owner records my performance without informing me or asking permissions, and sells these recordings without giving me a share, then the pub's owner is at fault I would say. There should be explicit provisions for the recording (and for the revenues deriving from them) in the contract I signed with the pub.

    Also, as far as I know, the professor could take these notes and turn them into a proper book, and the University would not own a cent of that coypright, because book copyright (even on material used for lectures at the University) is never relinquished to the employer. And the existence of published lecture notes in the market would definitely harm the sales of this book, and this would be exactly a violation of his copyright.

    So unless the professor explicitly relinquished copyright to the university within his hiring contract, I would say that the professor has lots of reasons and justification to sue.

    Just my 2 cents.

     

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    Celes, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 12:54am

    Re: I side with the professor

    "So if I am playing at a pub, and the pub's owner records my performance without informing me or asking permissions, and sells these recordings without giving me a share, then the pub's owner is at fault I would say."

    Suppose the pub's owner doesn't make an exact recording, but instead writes a paragraph or two explaining what the song lyrics were about. The paragraphs do not quote whole verses or even whole lines of your lyrics. If he somehow sells copies of these paragraphs, does he owe you money? Even supposing you had written the song, I would have trouble seeing how a crime has been committed.

     

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    Jake, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 2:05am

    I don't much like the idea of giving college students the option of just buying lecture notes off someone instead of actually bothering to turn up and pay attention, and I'm pretty sure that few colleges need to outsource the provision of dictaphones or note-takers for disabled students, but this is just daft. Did they just pick the first likely-sounding grounds for a lawsuit and run with it or something?

     

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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Apr 5th, 2008 @ 2:22am

    Can't stand this

    One of my profs at the University of Toronto took a similar stance, which drove me nuts. There wasn't a lot that materialized from it (i.e. no accusations or anything), but he told us on the first day that he didn't want his lectures being recorded because he "had to protect [his] intellectual property."

    He was teaching us MUS110, Western Music History. This was the most vague and introductory of courses. We covered nearly a millennium in 13 weeks, basically reading out of an overpriced textbook.

    I couldn't believe it.

    We were paying him to teach us this stuff. There was virtually no individual thought in the presentation of it. No one was in a rush to sell bootlegged copies of Prof. Johnston's lectures on the street. No one was rushing to see if they had surfaced on file sharing networks that afternoon. Yet, he was putting up barriers for students in his class.

    It's beyond me what he thought he was protecting himself from...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 3:13am

    learning

    Depends what you think the point of going to lectures is. If you can learn from notes, why do you need the lecture at all?

     

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    Anne, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 3:25am

    Re: Can't stand this

    This wouldn't have been allowed in a US college or university, again based on my point that in our Federal legal system, the rights of the protected minority (the disabled or foreign-language speaker) who wants to tape-record the classroom lecture trump the rights of the prof who claims that *his* legal rights are being violated because someone is being paid to 1. take notes for someone else or 2. tape-record the classroom lecture for the benefit of a protected minority.


    (Note that I'm not saying this is right or wrong, and indeed, I believe that our legal system has been weakened by too many diaper-wearing crybabies screaming about violations of their so-called legal rights.)

     

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    Prof. Matt, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 4:14am

    It's a mix

    First, if it was my class, I'd never recommend buying notes. Sounds like a waste of money. Just come to the class, visit my office, email me, or, hmm, make a smart friend in the class and copy her notes.

    As a legal issue, this could be complex. It's a legitimate intellectual property case, and the right place for it is in the courts.

    The professor does have some rights, the university has some, the students have some, and, though I like these people less, the textbook publisher and the notes reseller have some as well.

    The professor doesn't own the facts, and the idea that he or she could have a claim on student's earnings is pretty silly. The idea that there are one set of "facts", however, and that professors just say them out loud and that's all there is to it, is also ridiculous. The presentation itself is a performance, a work, and is due certain protections. For example, if one professor copies another's lecture word for word, that's dishonest. A student is free to use what he or she learns, but fair use comes into play when that student or anyone is simply recording the performance (in notes or any other way) for resale.

    Depending on the university's IP policy, though, the performance may be 'work for hire', not the property of the professor him or herself. An express clause to that effect may not be necessary - accepting pay for work is enough to potentially cede some rights.

    The student has a right to his or her notes, and may use any IP involved in any manner consistent with fair use. If he or she creates and sells derivative works, it's questionable, but a court will have to decide whether something has actually been stolen and the burden of proof is on the owner of the IP, not the student.

    Textbook publishers don't own the facts, but they have rights to their books, the way things are presented, visuals, etc. You can't just photocopy the whole thing and sell it. Fair use does apply. On the other hand, the claim that they own notes taken during a lecture in a class using their text is questionable. I doubt it.

    The note reseller "Einstein's Notes" has the most tenuous claim to what they're selling, but they also have some legal rights. The question of who owns the IP they resell has to be settled, is all.

     

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    skyrider (profile), Apr 5th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    public money - public information

    "The employment agreement for some universities stipulate they own the rights for any products created with university resources on university time. So, technically, the university would control any copyright on a lecture, not the faculty."

    I could understand private universities, but what about the ones funded with 'taxpayer dollars?'

    It seems to me that a lecture given by a professor being paid with our tax dollars should automatically be in the public domain.

    Maybe one could go so far as to demand that lectures given at schools who accept federal grants also be in the public domain. This way, everybody could learn something.

    The real value of going to the school and participating in the class is the degree they give you. Joe Schmoe can't claim 'I listened to x amount of lectures that equals a degree' now, can he?

     

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  18.  
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    ehrichweiss, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 8:02am

    Re: I am not a lawyer

    ...you cannot trademark a word or phrase that is commonly used by the public. e.g. Radio Shack tried to enforce what they claimed was a trademark on the word "Shack" in the early 1990's because they found "Bianca's Smut Shack" offensive.

    Anyway, you're 100% correct. One cannot copyright a fact...but one can be sued into non-existence by someone who thinks they can.

     

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    Prof. Matt, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 9:04am

    Re: public money - public information

    "It seems to me that a lecture given by a professor being paid with our tax dollars should automatically be in the public domain."

    It's an interesting idea. Tax dollars only pay a percentage (something like 17% at our university, last I heard). I'm not philosophically opposed to the free distribution of information, but existing IP law would have to be changed.

     

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  20.  
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    Glenn Charles, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    Re: distribution of videos etc from college lectures

    My god, what do they want to do, allow people to learn for free???
    --Glenn
    8]

     

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  21.  
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    Glenn Charles, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 10:27am

    Re: copyrights

    As I recall copyrights must be explicitly stated to be valid. That is, a book printed without notification of copyright is in fact not copyrighted. The law may well have changed; my review was done when I was 14 years old, in 1967.
    --Glenn
    P.S. Too bad a manuscript was never accepted, I suppose.
    -- http://oregonnerd.livejournal.com/ is a blog.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 5th, 2008 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: copyrights

    As I recall copyrights must be explicitly stated to be valid. That is, a book printed without notification of copyright is in fact not copyrighted.

    Nope. That is incorrect. Anything is copyrighted at the moment it's made these days. It used to not be that way, but now it is.

     

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    Russell Cole, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 11:48am

    your understanding of referencing and citation is too simplistic

    You mention that anyone who makes use of knowledge dissiminated in a textbook would have to pay copyright fees if it were true that college lectures were protected. First, you need to understand the concept of Fair Use. This allows for the use or reproduction of some copyrighted materials under prescribed parameters. Further, when academics reference, they are involved in a more complicated process of considerations in which the rules are often implicit. No one writing a journal article feels the need to reference parcels of fact or knowledge that have become generally accepted and distributed across vast proportions of the population for whom or about whom the academic writes. The exact boundaries distinguishing the taken-for-granted versus the specific and attributable types of intellectual sources are fuzzy and often such a determination rests upon the best judgment of the author. As long as someone can demonstrate that their deliberations when deciding if a reference is called for were conducted with Good Faith, then rarely would any exception be taken in reaction to the author's decision whether to reference or not,

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 11:23pm

    Re: Re: I am not a lawyer

    ...you cannot trademark a word or phrase that is commonly used by the public. e.g. Radio Shack tried to enforce what they claimed was a trademark on the word "Shack" in the early 1990's because they found "Bianca's Smut Shack" offensive.

    But they were able to force Auto Shack to change their name to Auto Zone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2008 @ 11:26pm

    Re: Re: distribution of videos etc from college lectures

    My god, what do they want to do, allow people to learn for free???

    Right. A lawsuit will teach them a lesson they won't soon forget. Oh, wait...
    Damn.

     

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  26.  
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    Laughingdragon (profile), Apr 5th, 2008 @ 11:55pm

    Class Lectures are copyrighted and should be

    I was in class today, listening to the greatest lecture about biostatistics and data management in clinical trials. And I was thinking how much some people I work with would benefit from a copy of the lecture notes.
    But the lecture is copyright and the original creation of the lecturer. I am being given personal license to possess the notes but that is not a transmissable licence.
    Now I don't think a notes service, who sells exclusively to the students enrolled in a course, are infringing on the copyright. Because they are only providing a limited service of writing down the class notes, where the lecturer isn't providing them directly to the student. Better and more valuable is for the lecturer to produce and distribute the notes as part of the class. Which my profs do. Good schools give good services.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 12:02am

    Re: Re: distribution of videos etc from college lectures

    My god, what do they want to do, allow people to learn for free???
    --Glenn
    8]


    Now that you put it that way, I would like to introduce Face to Palm.

     

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  28.  
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    Overcast, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    Again - just further proof that 'Academia' is more about profits and agendas than education.

     

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  29.  
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    Craig (also a Professor), Apr 6th, 2008 @ 8:06am

    This varies by university and publisher

    Matt is right...copyright policies are not uniform. They vary by institution, publisher, professor, and situation.

    No, a professor doesn't own "the facts" (no one does, Mike...I'm sure you know that). But, he/she certainly does have copyright on the materials he/she produces. For example, the Powerpoint slides and/or handouts I produce for class are covered by copyright (again, whether the prof or the college owns that (c) is dependent on the policy in force; at my university, profs retain (c) on all educational materials).

    There's a difference between "knowledge" (i.e., the info contained in a textbook) and the textbook's contents. The textbook's contents are (c)ed because the (c) covers their presentation, layout, organization, etc. The ideas presented therein are not protected by copyright (that's where patents may come into play).

    I think if more people understood these legal concepts, (a) there'd be less gnashing of teeth on boards like this, and (b) there'd be less confusion over what, exactly, is under dispute.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 12:08pm

    Re: I side with the professor

    Hrm... so I'm commiting copyright infringement everytime I take notes for later study?

    Wow, when 90% of america is commiting copyright infringement, I think it's maybe time to legalise it.

     

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    The Jung, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: I side with the professor

    No, then it's time to raise tuition fees for the "You must be a criminal" tax.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    These notes aren't just paraphrasing or being referential especially if you're paying for them: they are largely "note for note" transcriptions of the lecture.

    It's like Vanilla Ice trying to claim that he wasn't ripping off Queen and David Bowie.

    Free distribution is one thing, and really that's at the professors discretion, but making money off of someone else's work is wrong in any business. This is why we have patents and copyrights: to protect and compensate innovation.

    So many hippies who haven't created a damn thing in their lives think everything should be free. Have someone rob a great idea of yours and we'll see how quickly you rush in to defend intellectual property.

     

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    Dan Zee (profile), Apr 6th, 2008 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Can't stand this

    I think he was protecting the fact that this was a gut course.

     

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    Dan Zee (profile), Apr 6th, 2008 @ 2:18pm

    Re: I side with the professor

    Yeah, it's called a review. Magazines and newspapers do this every day.

     

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    Dan Zee (profile), Apr 6th, 2008 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Class Lectures are copyrighted and should be

    If you recorded the lecture, the professor would own the copyright and you couldn't distribute it, but your notes are your copyright.

    Also the copyright law gives a huge exclusion to information being used for the expressed purpose of learning. All academic research uses the works of others as its foundation. Einstein's laws of relativity, for example, came about because of the work of Newton, Kepler and those whoo came before.

    In 20 years, you may be repeating what your professor lectured to you as you lecture to a new generation of students. That's how knowledge advances.

    You are certainly free to show your comrades your notes. There's noo law against it.

     

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    jonnyq, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    Re:

    You can't "download" them, but you can "stream" them?

    Streaming = downloading. Why can't people as smart as professors figure that out? If can be downloaded, it can be saved for later use. Sure, they can make "saving" the file "cumbersome" to some degree but that's it.

    Universities aren't in the business of selling information, and it's time that they learn that. Any knowledge or information you can get from a university can be obtained freely or cheaply elsewhere. Universities are in the business of selling guidance and certificates. Somehow they don't understand their own business model.

     

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    Mark Day, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 4:10pm

    Copyright and Ideas

    I think this article confuses copyright of expression of an idea, and the learning of the idea. Students learn the concepts and have free use of the concepts. However, copying the expression of the idea is a violation of copyright if the expression is copyrighted.

    So no professors do not have a claim on students learning, but can ask that they not copy and pass off as theirs any direct copy of the expression. Also saying 2+2=4 is a common fact not something copyrightable as an expression, so the math teacher issue is not accurate.

     

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    Iron Chef, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    Re: This varies by university and publisher

    I can see the concern if the professor was sharing newly discovered information that hasn't been published or through a peer-review process, or in a soon-to-be in a journal.

    However, Einstein's notes seems like the old Cliff Notes model. Shame on the professors for tests purely from the book.

    Thinking back, I have to say one of my favorite professors taught an advanced International Business course. Bill had first hand experience of WalMart strategy, and taught a great deal from first hand experience. I took a lot away a lot from that course, much more than what was in that International Business book.

     

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    Tony, Apr 6th, 2008 @ 7:48pm

    Hard Sell

    It's going to be tough to make that argument in the wake of the open courseware movement. MIT offers all 1800 of it's courses online, for free. That includes all audio and video recordings of it's lectures and some professors even include notes. (ocw.mit.edu) All the Ivy League schools offer similar products, including Harvard and Notre Dame.

    If professors are teaching just for money, they're in the wrong business. It sounds to me like another middle man is pissed off that someone else may be making a buck while they're not. They probably hang around the RIAA at lunch ;)

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 6th, 2008 @ 9:44pm

    Re:


    Free distribution is one thing, and really that's at the professors discretion, but making money off of someone else's work is wrong in any business.


    Can you explain why? Back here in the real world, that tends to be what leads to innovation and growth. You build on each others' ideas.

    This is why we have patents and copyrights: to protect and compensate innovation.

    That would be great if it were true. But it is not. Copyright and patents were never designed to protect innovation, but to encourage it. It's a vital difference. And, most of the research has shown that it does not do so.

    So many hippies who haven't created a damn thing in their lives think everything should be free. Have someone rob a great idea of yours and we'll see how quickly you rush in to defend intellectual property.

    As I've made clear, people copy stuff from Techdirt all the time, quite often without credit. Some folks are making quite a bit of money off of what we've done on Techdirt. More power to them. If anything, it just gives me more incentive to improve what I'm doing.

     

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    Hugh Mann, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 3:55am

    Your analogy is a bit slanted

    The facts presented and the ideas themselves are obviously not copyrightable. That's always been the case. So, to suggest that a logical extension of this is that you might need to credit your second-grade teacher every time you do basic arithmetic is just plain silly.

    What IS protectable by copyright is the creative expression used to present the facts and ideas.

    If the note-taking service goes anywhere beyond facts and ideas, and actually lifts the lecturer's creative expression (e.g., helpful analogies, clever mnemonics, a unique arrangement or presentation of the facts, or anything else that was the creation of that lecturer), then, arguably, they are infringing one or more copyrights in the lecture.

    If all they're doing is just distilling the pure facts/ideas out of each lecture, and presenting them with nothing else, then, arguably, they're not copying anything protected by a copyright in the first place.

     

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  42.  
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    Hugh Mann, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    Uh... actually, you CAN copyright your notes, if they contain copyrightable elements. If, in your notes, all you jot down are the particular facts you gleaned from your reading, then, yes, you're probably right. However, if you had any creativity at all in your note-taking - diagrams, summaries in your own words, etc. - then that represents YOUR creative expression. And that is copyrightable.

     

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  43.  
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    George Pomar, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 6:20am

    uhhh...

    Could someone point me towards the "Copyright my Opinion" department?

    Seriously, some folks have got to stop taking these career students (also known as, ahem... professors) so seriously. The liberal arts faculties in our university system are idiotic at the least.

     

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  44.  
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    George Pomar, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    Re: can't fault people who want to get paid

    uhh... they are getting paid with my tax dollars. So isn't the "property in question" mine?

     

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  45.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Apr 7th, 2008 @ 8:16am

    There is no line

    Mike writes: "Where do you draw the line?

    There is no line, based on all these ridiculous claims of "infringement", the copyright holders assert that they are owed revenue based on any arbitrary and capricious decision they make. Not only that, copyright holders even claim they don't have to abide by due process to declare "infringement" and even claim the right to force third parties to "protect" their copyright.

     

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  46.  
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    Jordan M., Apr 7th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Of course it has copyright

    The issue here isn't whether or not the lectures or textbook material are protected by copyright. Of course they are. That's just there by default to give the creator the power to decide how his/her creation is used. If you're walking down the street and suddenly whip out a heartfelt soliloquy to the nearest passing stranger - guess what: you automatically own the copyright to that performance (at least in the U.S.). Even free software and stuff written on sites like Wikipedia remain fully in control of the copyright holder.

    What gets me is that the copyright holders in this story are **choosing** not to explicitly grant permission for others to use their copyrighted material in this way. It's educational material, for goodness sake! What good is it if it can't be copied!

    Personally, if I were a professor and had the ability by my employer, I would explicitly make all of my (albeit copyrighted) material available to anyone. Looks like the MIT Open Courseware stuff is under the Creative commons BY-NC-SA license. Brilliant! That gives them full control over their material and they **choose** to make it available to anyone, to copy and modify however they want, for any purpose as long as they're not selling it. That's the *spirit* of education and, if you ask me, the Internet.

    Faulkner Press needs to step up and learn something truly valuable here.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 10:45am

    didn't read many, but here's a though...

    the "notesellers" are selling a republication on a student's version of the lecture.

    what's the phrase...copy from one, it's infringement, copy from many, it's research?

     

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  48.  
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    Kelly Martin, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Copyright in lectures

    IIRC, lectures are not "affixed in a permanent medium" and are therefore not copyrighted themselves under federal law. The only cognizable copyright inhered to the notes themselves, and as a textual work they are copyrighted by the person who inscribed them, not necessarily the lecturer himself.

    That said, instructional lectures are copyrightable under the separate copyright laws of some states. I remember that at least one state passed legislation protecting copyright interest in lectures back when I was in law school, deliberately to mess with a lecture notetaking service.

    If this action is brought under federal copyright law I would expect it to be dismissable for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. However, that presumes that the defendant has good enough counsel.

     

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  49.  
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    Tack Furlo, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 2:34pm

    English 101

    I had to take an english 101 class at the local community college. It was english composition. Our teacher, Ms. Farmer, more or less did 2 things. On tuesdays, she gave a lecture, which boiled down to reading from the book word for word and interjecting her own tips and comments. 90% or more of it was the book. Then, on thursday, we would write and she would make rounds and help people with their essay's.

    At the onset of the class, I asked her if she minded me recording her lectures, to which she replied not at all, then another student asked if she could have a copy of the recordings (I was using my laptop so they were easy to email) so after asking the teacher if she had a problem with it (and she said no) I emailed the recordings to the other student.

    By this logic, I was breaking the law by distributing it, I was breaking the law by recording it, and my teacher who has been head of the English department for 8 years at that time (3 years ago) was also breaking the law. Are you kidding me?

     

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  50.  
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    Hugh Mann, Apr 7th, 2008 @ 5:25pm

    Re: Copyright in lectures

    Depends. If the professor prepares the lecture ahead of time, then it may very well be "affixed in a permanent medium." Many professors develop their lectures and then present them over and over. It's not a stretch to consider that such lectures may actually be written down before being presented.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2008 @ 3:53am

    Re: Re: Copyright in lectures

    Many professors develop their lectures and then present them over and over. It's not a stretch to consider that such lectures may actually be written down before being presented.

    And if Einstein's Notes were making photocopies of the professor's written notes then that would be a different situation from what is being reported.

     

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  52.  
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    MLS, Apr 8th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Under the rules and policies in effect at the University of Florida, the copyright in lectures and notes are deemed the "property" of the university. In order for a professor to take over the copyright, he/she must secure written permission from the university in the form of a waiver of the university's rights. In this case this is what the professor did, and a waiver was duly granted. Of course, nowhere in the professor's request to the university did he happen to mention just what it was he was planning on doing once he had the copyright in hand. This seems a particularly egregious oversight given that he appears to have contracted with a "publisher" to place his notes, lectures, etc. in a bound volume or on a CD, and then to inform his students that the coursebook for his course(s) are available only from the publisher and at a pretty hefty price. Moreover, once the course is over the coursebook may not be resold to others. It is "licensed" on a personal, non-transferable basis.

    The University of Florida is a public university. The professor is a state employee who is being paid to teach, and, of course, a necessary incident of that is to prepare and present lectures. To make students also have to pay for a coursebook in which the professor holds a financial interest seems a bit over the top.

    Fortunately, it seems the good professor fancies himself an expert in copyright law, and particularly the formalities associated with copyright registration. A cursory review of each registration quickly demonstrates that his expertise is sorely lacking. Moreover, several of the "works" he registered and for which he now claims copyright were never presented to the university for the necessary waiver. The university does not grant waivers in gross...it does so only on a case by case basis.

    Perhaps the good professor may be able to clear up the legalities associated with his obligations under the university's rules and policies, as well as the failings of his purported registrations, but in the end I daresay that the legal costs he will incur by doing so will far exceed whatever monetary award he may receive should he ultimately prevail in his lawsuit. Of course, there is also the "great unknown" about what may happen when and as the university learns about what he is doing as it relates to his students.

     

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  53.  
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    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Apr 11th, 2008 @ 12:30am

    Re: Re: Can't stand this

    I'm sure similar laws and policies would apply in Canada and at UofT regarding a disabled student (maybe for non-English speakers... might have a harder time with that battle).

    I didn't fight him over it because a) I didn't know enough about "intellectual property" law at the time, and b) I don't record lectures myself.

    Damn, it was obnoxious though.

     

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  54.  
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    Jim Sullivan, Jun 5th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re: Wow......

    MLS,

    I am the attorney for Faulkner Press. You should be happy to know that the Defendants have retained Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge... certainly able counsel.

    If you would like a copy of Judge Mickle's order denying the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, I will be happy to forward that to you.

    Jim Sullivan

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2010 @ 1:49am

    Re: I am not a lawyer

    You cannot copyright nature.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
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    Patrick Murphy, Jul 26th, 2012 @ 7:48pm

    Re: I am not a lawyer

    you can patent algorithms

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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