Can A Professor Force Students To Destroy All Their Notes?
from the education-vs.-intellectual-property dept
One of the more interesting questions I’ve come across in the past is how does intellectual property function in an educational institution. We already know that thanks to the disastrous Bayh-Dole Act, universities have become a lot more interested in enforcing intellectual property rights for profit, rather than focusing on their charters of sharing information and educating. In many ways, the concepts of intellectual property and education come into significant conflict with each other. And that brings us to a story submitted by Joe Reda, concerning a nameless economics professor at an unknown university supposedly forcing students to destroy all their notes at the end of the semester, officially to avoid having such notes fall into the hands of future students.
To be honest, I find the story so incredible that it’s difficult to believe it actually happened. If there’s anyone out there who can confirm that it actually happened, and provide details on the university and professor, that would be helpful (assuming there are multiple students in the class, and the professor has done this more than once, there should be at least someone else who can corroborate the story). However, if it actually did happen, there are numerous problems with it. First, and most importantly, it’s unlikely the strategy would actually work. What about students who took notes in an electronic form (increasingly common these days) and had backup copies elsewhere? There’s simply no way the professor could actually destroy all the notes. Second, it’s difficult to see how the professor has any claim, whatsoever, to the notes unless she was discussing specific handouts over which she owned the copyright or, perhaps, verbatim copying — but even then, you’d have to think that such notes wouldn’t be under the complete control of the professor such that she could demand their destruction. Honestly, if the story is true, you’d simply have to question the quality of such a professor who seems to have confused the main purpose of her job: educating students vs. preventing cheating. It’s almost like the entertainment industry so focused on preventing piracy that they forgot about creating good content and entertaining people.