Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Lecture Notes Considered Infringement

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the great-ways-to-encourage-and-enrich dept.

The Courts 385

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "According to a new lawsuit, taking notes in class is copyright infringement. Of course, it's not quite that simple. The professor is partnered with an E-book maker that wants to sell the material themselves, and the people taking notes pay students to take good ones, then sell copies to everyone else. But that just means that the case will hinge upon whether or not lecture notes are fair use. Either way, I wonder how long it will be before you will have to sign a EULA whenever you walk into class"

cancel ×

385 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Right to Read (1, Redundant)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969720)

This thread just will not be complete without Stallman's Right to Read [gnu.org] .

Correction (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969730)

Taking lecture notes isn't what's claimed to be copyright infringement, only re-selling the notes for a profit. Fair use does not provide for commercial reproduction.

Re:Correction (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969788)

Right, and fair use isn't some sort of blanket protection that you can slap on something. It is only an affirmative defense for a specific case. And this case is about a business taking notes for profit. It is not about whether all lecture notes will suddenly be found to be fair use. That is impossible by definition.

Re:Correction (4, Interesting)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969844)

It is only an affirmative defense for a specific case
Actually, four specific cases. In the original law, only three -- journalism, review, and education. The fourth, pardoy, was added by way of judicial interpretation of the unexplict statutes and underlying principles.

It is not about whether all lecture notes will suddenly be found to be fair use. That is impossible by definition.
Well, only in the sense that a lecture is usually not set in a fixed form, and so isn't covered by copyright in the form usually presented to students.

Re:Correction (5, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969800)

Fair use does allow for certain things to be reproduced commercially. How do you write an analysis of Shakespeare (a derived work that's covered by Fair Use, btw) without deriving it somewhat from Shakespeare? Cliff Notes are a commercial reproduction of the main points of the story; isn't that what lecture notes are?

Furthermore, the university should be protecting these students by threatening to end the contract. If the book maker's going to be anal about this, they're going to be anal about something else that's important to the university. Also, an attack on the university's students should be viewed as an attack on the university itself. Every other college should be avoiding these guys like the plague too.

Re:Correction (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969868)

*Sigh*

The meaning of fair use is as confused here as the meaning of Godwin's Law. Fair use is a defense, not a right. No material is fair use. That material is only used in a way where if it were to be challenged in a lawsuit, a fair use defense would prevail. How the material is used is just as important as what type of material it is. This is why you can't make a blanket protection with a fair use defense. For those who want a blanket protection, it is called public domain, GFDL, or CCL.

Rights to shakespear (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969906)

Out of curiosity, does anyone actually have the rights to Shakespeare's work (in its original form). Somehow I doubt he's collecting any royalties on them at this point.

Re:Rights to shakespear (4, Interesting)

AnyoneEB (574727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970000)

No, in fact, all of his works can be found on Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] , although you may notice a good number of minor differences from the versions you have seen before because any published edition has copyrighted touch-ups to the spelling and formatting.

Re:Rights to shakespear (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970024)

Shakespeare's ghost does. Under new copyright laws, copyright is the creator's life + 50 years + creator's afterlife.

Re:Rights to shakespear (3, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970116)

Out of curiosity, does anyone actually have the rights to Shakespeare's work (in its original form).

The "original form" doesn't exist.

What we have are incomplete and sometimes contradictory readings based on the manuscripts that found their way into print.

Shakespeare himself was perfectly capable of cutting and splicing scenes that ran too long or got in the way of a successful bit of stage business that appealed to an audience.

His plays will always have to be edited for reading and performance.

Re:Correction (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969816)

I think you are so correct. I hope your post gets modded up. There is nothing wrong with notes. But when it comes to profiting off them, that is another thing altogether.

Could we by analogy compare this to paying a movie-goer to take notes during the movie, and provide a very detailed summary to a company planning on selling said summary?

Re:Correction (5, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969874)

Movie-goers who take detailed notes during a movie to later re-sell them for a profit are usually called "reviewers." A studio wouldn't have an ice cube's chance in hell of winning a lawsuit against a reviewer who published a movie review. Both the reviewer and the paper profit, and that's totally fair. There's nothing wrong with selling your lecture notes, either. Moreover, in every class I took in college, the lecture was sufficiently derived from the course textbook (none of which were written by the prof teaching the course) that there's no reasonable way a claim of infringement could stand up in court.

Re:Correction (3, Insightful)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970122)

What about in cases where the professor did write the book?

The interesting case I can think of is a textbook like The Feynman Lectures in Physics, which are derived from lectures made when he taught Freshman Physics. Rumor had it that David Goodstein was doing the same thing the year I had Freshman Physics at Caltech - there were often filming crews brought in for key lectures (like the day he derived E=mc**2, to a standing ovation ...).

Re:Correction (3, Informative)

capologist (310783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969960)

Could we by analogy compare this to paying a movie-goer to take notes during the movie, and provide a very detailed summary to a company planning on selling said summary?

A detailed summary of a movie is not copyright infringement. Such summaries are published all the time. Look up any popular movie in Wikipedia and you'll probably find a detailed summary.

Spite (2, Insightful)

Morosoph (693565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970114)

I get the impression that the professor wants to penalise those who couldn't make his lecture (and therefore understand his slant). So instead of having a purer skill-based outcome (since all are clued up as to the professor's outlook), insiders are to be preferred over outsiders.

Re:Correction (2, Insightful)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970164)

Could we by analogy compare this to paying a movie-goer to take notes during the movie, and provide a very detailed summary to a company planning on selling said summary?

In a word: no. The university has two objectives (1) create knowledge (i.e. research) and (2) disseminate knowledge (i.e. educating). TFA refers to the latter. The knowledge a university disseminates is not (should not be) intellectual property. Many borderline idiots will argue that students pay the university for this knowledge. These borderline idiots are confused. Students pay the university for the service of disseminating said knowledge to said students, providing a venue for said learning and, least of all, giving students tangible credit for the knowledge they have learned. If a professor disseminates knowledge that is considered intellectual property, then he is abusing his post or is teaching fiction (not in the "film studies" sense, etc.). In both cases, he is irresponsible. If a professor agrees to the type of contract mentioned in the TFA, then he has lost his priorities as an educator which is to adhere to the two main missions of a university.

Re:Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969818)

Mod parent up! This story isn't about students taking notes to learn. This is about a commercial business repackaging a professor's lectures and reselling them for profit.

I wouldn't say it's cut-and-dried, but it's a heck of a lot murkier than the summary makes it appear to be.

Education is fair, but who's notes are they? (3, Informative)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969854)

Fair use does include educational purposes, which is why professors are free to copy sections of text into "their" notes. These notes are sold exclusively to students. That might be covered. The whole point of the educational exemption was to make sure students get the best notes possible.

The other issue is who really owns the notes. I can be sure that I own my homework solutions and essays even though they are "derived" from my notes. My lecture notes are something else but they are generally as variable as homework is. No two people's notebooks ever look alike. There are differences in layout and emphasis. More astute students will put in things from their texts and other sources. We're not talking about Gilbert and Sullivan productions here where the words and notes must be perfect, we're talking about an interpretation of a lecture.

Re:Education is fair, but who's notes are they? (1)

demeteloaf (865003) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970100)

From the article, it looks like the professor has registered a copyright for the lecture, and uses transparencies to show the main points of the lecture. The notes sold copy the transparencies verbatim and are sold for profit. While it may not be 100% clear cut, in my mind I probably side with the professor in this case.

twitter again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970198)

Don't forget to invite all your sockpuppets [slashdot.org] so they can take lectures with you.

add tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969732)

Yougottabekiddingme

Offically gone too far (3, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969734)

The end game to all this will be copyright being abolished due to it being rendered unworkable.

Re:Offically gone too far (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969814)

The end game to all this will be copyright being abolished due to it being rendered unworkable.
The only thing that will happen to copyright is to make it even more restrictive. Look at the complete and utter failure that the War On Drugs is. It does nothing but give more power to the government and destroying lives and freedom, while doing absolutely nothing to meet it's intended goal of stopping drug use.

Re:Offically gone too far (2, Interesting)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969998)

The end game to all this will be copyright being abolished due to it being rendered unworkable.

It seems that in addition to death and taxes that copyright infringement is the third of the certainties everyone will encounter during their lives.

This is really turning into a war between the greedy and the needy.

Re:Offically gone too far (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970194)

You are correct sir. However, I don't think it will come from a lecture notes case, but rather from an email forwarding case: anytime you forward a email from someone to someone, without explicit permission, you are violating copyright (at least in the 'States, where everything automatically gets a copyright unless it is explicitly disclaimed).

Fair use (3, Interesting)

mathnerd314 (1212880) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969736)

Wouldn't it be considered fair use since it's for educational purposes?

Re:Fair use (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969750)

Teachers have that right, not students.

Re:Fair use (1)

muindaur (925372) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969858)

Actually students do have that right. Fair use allows students to use quotes from copyrighted books in papers, a clip from a movie, or use a clip from a song in a presentation if it pertains to the research that's presented to a class.

Re:Fair use (1)

piojo (995934) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969894)

Teachers have that right, not students.
You say that as though "fair use" were well defined. If there's one thing slashdot has taught me, it's that there are several factors that go into determining whether something is fair use, and there's really no way to make a definitive judgement about it (unless you're... um, a judge).

I'm sure there are circumstances where a student could be considered an educator (if they are a tutor, for instance).

I believe that if an employer pays an employee to produce a work, by convention, the employer owns the copyright. I'm really curious whether teaching falls under this scenario. It seems like at the very least, the student (the client, the one paying for a service) should be entitled to a non-exclusive right to use class materials (produced by the teacher for the class) for any purpose... but I really don't know. In this case, I wonder if the teacher sold or gave rights to multiple parties in a way he shouldn't have?

Re:Fair use (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969942)

I wonder if the students could be sued for copyright infringement for writing something down on an exam the the professor said during the class. Think of what they are saying. They are saying you are not allowed to write down what the professor is saying, or I guess, summaries of that. So you probably wouldn't be allowed to write stuff down after you left the class. And oh, yeah, you wouldn't be able to write out the answers on the exam if it required writing something that the professor talked about in one of the classes.

Re:Fair use (4, Informative)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969908)

Not exactly....

Copyright Title 17 Chapter 1 Section 107:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
Classroom notes easily fall under that. If someone didnt show up for a class your notes could effectively teach them the material. Or it could fall under research which you are sharing with the fellow student. It will be fun to see how this plays out, but I cannot imagine the teacher winning this case.

Re:Fair use (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969964)

I can not imagine somebody would want to be a teacher, and at the same time, try to stop their students from taking notes. I think this story missed april fools by a few days.

Re:Fair use (1)

aeflash (1267790) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969756)

It seems like the professor was upset with people buying lecture notes, and just played the "zomg copyright infringement" card in a feeble attempt to get people to stop.

Re:Fair use (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969760)

The students have fair use because they are using it for educational purposes. The companies re-selling the notes, however, are not using it for educational purposes but for profit-making.

Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969742)

Fucking stupid. That's all I have to say

Hey wait a minute! (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969744)

The TEACHER is the one who should have to sign the EULA, since after all I am paying HIM.

Re:Hey wait a minute! (2, Insightful)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969904)

No. You're paying the university, which has the right to accept or reject you and limit your behavior in various ways or for various reasons having to do with its overarching education mission. Don't like it? Try hiring a professor all on your lonesome.

Re:Hey wait a minute! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969912)

Since when did a game company or music label sign your EULA, you pay them.

Who cares, really? (1)

crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969748)

So what if a shill ^H^H^H^H^H paid student takes notes and gives them to the publisher. Unless you're distributing the notes YOU took, how the hell are they going to know that you wrote down similar information from the same class?

Re:Who cares, really? (1)

crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969786)

Nevermind. I know this is Slashdot, and most people don't actually RTFA, and I posted my previous comment before doing so. Ahh well, chalk it up to lack of caffeine and/or nicotine in my bloodstream.

a tough call. (1)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969754)

The answer is simple:

Boycott his class. "Wildlife Issues in the New Millennium" sounds replaceable to me.

Re:a tough call. (0)

Hercynium (237328) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970042)

I agree, but I'd like to play devil's advocate, because this professor may have a 'valid' case, despite being an ass who doesn't deserve to teach.

An analogy: Let's posit that I have just attended an 'all-hands' meeting where I work and the owner has some interesting news about what the company is about to do.

Just because what is said is distributed openly to all attending, we are not allowed to re-distribute that information outside the company. If the owner then takes that same information and sends it to the newspaper, I *still* have no right to distribute it on my own.

If this information makes him rich, guess what... I'm still poor. If he orders that all copies be immediately returned or destroyed, I am bound by copyright to comply. The information is entrusted to me for uses which the owner defines at his whim.

People can argue that a University lecture simply does not have the same rules, but let me make some comparisons. There is an exchange of money - the student pays for the privilege to attend, and use the information learned in lectures to obtain a degree. The professor is paid to distribute information to the students for said purpose.

At this point I'm getting tired and I'm just going to continue by spouting my semi-organized musings on this topic of which I know nothing canonical.

Yes, I'm bored and drunk.

If there is a contract between the University and the professor giving the professor complete ownership and rights to any information he/she passes on to students, then the professor may have a case. His case could further be propped up if a University lecture is legally considered a private forum, like the hypothetical company meeting.

Furthermore, if there is a contract between the University and the student binding him or her to use information from lectures only for the purpose of passing the course, that gives the professor further support for legal action.

(BTW, I don't remember ever signing such an agreement in school - explicit OR implicit - does anybody??)

Granted, I think that selling your notes (and buying other people's notes as a substitute for attending class) is morally dishonest, but shouldn't be criminal. This stems from my opinion that despite the financial exchanges between University, student, and professor, a University lecture exists for the distribution of information that should be publicly available. Please note, however, I also believe that a professor should be able to reserve the right to block attendance to his/her lectures as he/she sees fit, at least to the extent that University policy would allow. The arseholes hopefully would be discovered quickly and when students begin dropping those classes, perhaps would be ousted... on second thought, universities do really stupid things backing their faculty sometimes...

SO... have I fanned the flames of a possible debate? Will Richard Stallman beat down my door? Discuss.

No notes? (3, Funny)

dws90 (1063948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969758)

If this lawsuit succeeds, does that mean students won't have to take notes anymore?

This may be the first fair use lawsuit where college students actually support the person suing!

Re:No notes? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969976)

I'm not sure where you went to school, but most students I know actually wanted to take notes. So they could, oh, I don't know, study from them and pass the exams. This isn't grade 9. If you're going to university, you should be taking notes. Personally, I didn't take a lot of notes, as I felt I learned more by just listening. But I was sure to copy down anything that looked really useful, or at least a list of important topics so I could read about them in the text afterwards.

Know notes? No! (3, Funny)

Crash Culligan (227354) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970048)

dws90: If this lawsuit succeeds, does that mean students won't have to take notes anymore?

Worse, how much credit does a student get if he completely blanks on a test, thereby demonstrating that he's done his civic duty by not remembering someone else's intellectual property?

Ridiculous (4, Insightful)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969762)

This is pretty ridiculous. If the professor wants to protect his copyright, then he shouldn't be putting the material up on the blackboard for everyone to freely see.

Last time I checked, the point of going to class is to get notes and learn new material. If you are forbidden to take notes, why go? All the material from any class can be found in a textbook somewhere--and most college students can read on their own. Basically, the professor is telling you "Just buy my book," at which point the lectures themselves become almost pointless--one can stay home and just read the book, since you can't write anything down on your own, your lecture notes are the book. Furthermore, if you can't take your own notes, why pay for the class? Textbooks are cheap. Just buy it and read it.

This professor is probably tenured, which is fortunate for him, since pulling a stunt like this is probably a one-way track to getting denied tenure.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

coren2000 (788204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969798)

It's not his material. As an employee of the school his work at the school belongs to the school.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969846)

That's not wholly true. A professor can write a textbook based on his own lecture notes and the school he teaches at will have no claim to that material. Patents for research done at a particular university will be owned by the researcher, not the professor, etc. Basically, the work professors do remains their property because if it didn't, universities wouldn't ever be able to get anyone to work for them because professors are fairly attached to things they spend years developing. Anyway, I screwed up and didn't understand the article. I thought the professor was selling the notes through this company, not some renegade company selling a new version of Cliffs Notes.

Re:Ridiculous (4, Informative)

The -e**(i*pi) (1150927) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969958)

In my school, North Carolina State University, you can be kicked out for preparing abstracts/transcripts of lectures (sounds like notes to me, and since i'm not the judge they can pick what it means) to sell to other students.

http://www.ncsu.edu/stud_affairs/osc/AIpage/cheatingpolicy.html [ncsu.edu]

Re:Ridiculous (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969968)

All the material from any class can be found in a textbook somewhere

I'll take it as given that you have never attended a lecture or audited a course taught by a firs-rate teacher.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970012)

I'm a 3rd year graduate student, and I most certainly have attended great lectures. The material is found somewhere--sometimes in a research paper or other publication if it's cutting edge. I've certainly never heard of a professor hording knowledge and keeping something ONLY in their own lecture, which is what you seem to suggest. If a professor presents something, it'll be published somewhere (or about to be published). If it's completely their own, then it'll be their own publication.

Re:Ridiculous (0)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970228)

I've certainly never heard of a professor hording knowledge and keeping something ONLY in their own lecture, which is what you seem to suggest.

There is a profound difference between knowledge and understanding.

You may know the facts, or at least think you do. But there is no engagement, no passion, in an encounter with a textbook.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969988)

I took a course on assembly programming. The prof spent more than 1 lecture reading sections from the text which was basically a listing of the instruction set, and the definitions of the instructions. He wouldn't show us how to combine the instructions into useful programs. No, he would simply just read the instruction and it's definitiion straight out of the text, and then continue on with the next instruction. One of the worst classes I ever took. But the labs were kind of interesting.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Insightful)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970022)

I'm not sure what you're going for. If you mean to say, "People who just read the book are bad lectures," yes that's the case, but "textbook somewhere" doesn't necessarily mean that there's one book that contains EVERYTHING the professor says. However, if the professor is presenting good information, then someone else somewhere will have written it as well (or maybe the professor himself in his own book or published paper). Maybe it would take 17 books to contain everything that the professors says, but all the facts are out there somewhere.

Re:Ridiculous (2, Informative)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970144)

Last I checked, in most cases, students pay to take the class. Hence his "notes" on the blackboard aren't free to begin with.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970180)

Copyright is ridiculous.

Re:Ridiculous (3, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970196)

This is pretty ridiculous. If the professor wants to protect his copyright, then he shouldn't be putting the material up on the blackboard for everyone to freely see.

Last time I checked, the point of going to class is to get notes and learn new material. If you are forbidden to take notes, why go?

You're thinking of trade secrets. The whole point of copyright is to allow the copyright holder to disseminate his work in whatever manner he sees fit. If the professor wishes to share his lecture with students in a class but not with a company wanting to distribute it as an ebook, that is his prerogative. In other words, just because the professor consented to students copying his work for their own use, that does not mean he also granted the students (or the ebook company) the right to redistribute it.

What's the difference with the *IAA? As far as I know, only the most extreme elements of the anti-*IAA movement believe copyright should be abolished. Most believe copyright is useful, but the pendulum has swung too far in favor of copyright holders. For the professor's actions to parallel the *IAA, he would have to be filing lawsuits against random students and ebook distributors in a fishing expedition. Instead, he's doing exactly what everyone here has been asking of the *IAA - track down through legal means exactly who is doing the infringing, and file suit against them.

Publish it yourself on the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969804)

The real solution to companies like that is to put your class notes up on the web so they're always available to your students. I don't know why more professors don't do that.

Re:Publish it yourself on the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969842)

Many wish to encourage lecture attendance, and I'm all for that. Those who don't care either way though have lots of options, including in some cases even putting lecture audio or video on the class website (I heart these professors :-).

Re:Publish it yourself on the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969886)

Lecture attendance is so overrated. :) I put all my lecture notes and other materials on the web. This makes it easier for students who are legitimately absent to get access to what they missed and I'm not bothered by the others as long as they don't come and complain that they're doing badly in the class.

Keep one thing in mind (1)

GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969826)

A lawsuit can claim *anything*, it's only a problem if a judge/jury upholds a stupid claim. Inevitably there will be comments below about how bad the U.S. legal system is, but despite my (many) misgivings about this system I just don't see this case having any legs whatsoever. It's patently ridiculous, pun intended.

However, this does not mean we all can't gnash our teeth over the story. Just remember to direct it at the dickhead who initiated this suit. I hope every U of Florida student that sees this avoids anything this guy teaches. I also hope that every single author cited in his class texts (which I'm sure were all written by him, the norm for college courses) sues HIM for profiting from their ideas.

this is clear infringement for commercial gain (4, Informative)

pbhj (607776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969830)

RTFA, please.

The first sentence of the abstract is plain wrong.

Taking notes from the lecturer on a course you've paid for (or the tax payer, depending on your location, has) is fine. You create a derivative of the lecturers copyright but it's either allowed contractually or fair use for educational purposes (again depending on jurisdiction).

Making a "slavish" copy of the lecturers notes and then selling them is not allowed and impinges on the ability of the lecturer to sell his own work for publication. In this case I don't think it's just infringement it's also immoral.

It's pretty straight forward.

Now if the company were giving away copies of the notes then it might be interesting ...

Re:this is clear infringement for commercial gain (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970046)

Helping your fellow students and asking for compensation for the work you did and they couldn't be bothered to do is immoral? Man, what a fucked up world you live in.

Re:this is clear infringement for commercial gain (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970158)

I'm pretty much with you except on the "immoral" statement. I don't see how copyright has anything to do with morality. People who copied others' works were not immoral before copyright was invented, and they are not immoral now.

Re:this is clear infringement for commercial gain (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970206)

Making a "slavish" copy of the lecturers notes and then selling them is not allowed and impinges on the ability of the lecturer to sell his own work for publication.

You do realize the difference between what a professor might publish (original research) and what he might teach in class (standard knowledge in a field), don't you? Publishing the former would be considered a serious breach of ethics (though it does not stop some scientists from doing this). Publishing the latter is what the professor is already doing by making notes in the first place. Barring a professor's presenting information in some brilliant new way, he is probably just rehashing his notes from the courses he took in college or is rehashing them from a book. Either way, neither could be remotely considered original research. If he is losing money by someone publishing his notes, he needs to reexamine his priorities as an educator.

you shouldn't be able to copyright facts (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969836)

If I remember correctly, facts can not be copyrighted. Copyright implies that there is some creative work being done that should be compensated. Just as a list of telephone numbers can not be copyrighted, so shouldn't a list of facts.

Re:you shouldn't be able to copyright facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969880)

Creative works can be copyrighted, and many lectures can be considered creative works. This makes less sense for some subjects, especially math and the sciences (and especially since in many of these cases the professors draw their lecture notes directly from lessons in the textbook), but even in those cases there is some creative effort that goes into, e.g., the structure of the lecture or the techniques used. And in the humanities, where lecture content is less about "facts" and more about ideas, this kind of creative lecture content is much more prevalent.

Re:you shouldn't be able to copyright facts (2, Interesting)

lbft (950835) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970062)

Whilst that agrees with my understanding, here in Australia a telco successfully sued out of existence a company that was selling a database of telephone numbers that they typed in manually from the phone book. If I remember correctly the argument was that there was creative work in the assembly of the list.

Re:you shouldn't be able to copyright facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970102)

I see you've never created a lecture before.

By your argument, are all non-fictional works lists of facts that can't be copyright protected?

Re:you shouldn't be able to copyright facts (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970212)

I see you've never created a lecture before.
To claim that the lecture is a creative work they're going to have to show evidence of this. Being a biochem major, the vast majority of the lectures I go to on a daily basis are little more than a list of facts.

By your argument, are all non-fictional works lists of facts that can't be copyright protected?
If they are indeed no more than a list of facts then they shouldn't be copyrightable period. I do think that the presentation of facts in a creative way is most likely patentable but facts themselves are not.

You probably already sign a EULA. . . (3, Insightful)

MistaE (776169) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969852)

. . . when you enroll in your institution. The question should be, rather, when universities will put these absurd provisions in your contract before even allowing you to sign up for classes.

Re:You probably already sign a EULA. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970016)

I am currently a graduate student and have spent years both working at and taking courses at college. There is no contract at a college beyond course syllabi spelling out the expectations of each course and the requirements for a degree. Note-taking is considered de riguer and if any professor told me otherwise, I (and I suspect most of my classmates) would stand up, walk out of class, and march straight to the Dean's office to make very loud objections.

Redistribution of Facts (3, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969856)

There are only so many ways that one can say "Beavers build dams." Given that notes are brief statements of fact by definition I can not see how the notes can be considered derivative as they are nothing more than statements of fact in most cases. There might be a small case if the entire lecture were recorded verbatim and then sold as such but there isn't a college student within a gazillion miles that will write that much that fast. This seems analogous to the evening news where simply repeating facts regardless of the source represents no copyright infringement.
My favorite quote from TFA is

But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press' attorney, says the suit isn't about money for the professors, it's about protecting its intellectual property.
followed at the end of the article by

The lawsuit seeks any profits made off of the Moulton study guides.

Re:Redistribution of Facts (2, Insightful)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969974)

Given that notes are brief statements of fact by definition I can not see how the notes can be considered derivative as they are nothing more than statements of fact in most cases.
LOMFLMAO. So, I studied for 15 years and practiced teaching for 10 so that I could robotically enunciate mere facts? "Mercury is a liquid at room temperature. Bears hibernate. Aristotle was not Belgian. etc. etc. etc." What do you think a professor is? A fact-beacon? Beaming out facts to illuminate naturally occurring ambient students?

Re:Redistribution of Facts (1)

SideshowBob (82333) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969992)

No he didn't say that, he said lecture notes are.

And by the way, did you personally invent or discover everything that you teach? If not, then how can you lay claim to ownership of the intellectual property? Maybe you have some license payments headed your way...

Re:Redistribution of Facts (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970136)

Congratulations, you're a teacher. But the facts that you're giving as notes are - by virtue of them being notes - facts. I can't infringe upon 'mv^2' or 'm*a'

Now if this was about his analysis of the facts, he might (but probably doesn't) have a case.

A teacher does more than 'robotically enunciate mere facts' - they help you understand the 'why' of facts and how they're useful. Why the net force of a constant-velocity object is 0 (but I'm pushing it!). Why the Russians acted the way they did in the 1940's. Why Shakespeare uses a certain word over another (his intended nuance). Why e^(i*pi)=-1.

Lectures don't have much of that. That's why you study, do the assigned problems, and talk to the prof.

Re:Redistribution of Facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970176)

Bears hibernate.

If you went to school to teach about bears you need to go back (or ask for a rebate). They do not hibernate.

Hey (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22969870)

I'm new here. Have we ever slashdotted a mail server?

mpm@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu

We need an accounting major here... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969900)

The lawsuit seeks any profits made off of the Moulton study guides

Seems like a little Hollywood Accounting [wikipedia.org] could easily show that there is no profit for that particular guide...

"professor's copyrighted lectures" (5, Insightful)

capologist (310783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969914)

Why does a professor have a copyright on his lectures, anyway?

When I was working for a software developer and wrote code, I didn't get a copyright on the code. My employer owns the code the code that I wrote.

The same way my employer paid me to create code, the school pays the professor to create and deliver lectures.

If anybody owns a copyright on those lectures, shouldn't it be the school?

quiz show fail (3, Funny)

BorgCopyeditor (590345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969986)

The same way my employer paid me to create code, the school pays the professor to create and deliver lectures.

Bzzzt. No, I'm sorry, that is not correct, but thank you for playing. The analogy you were looking for was doctor to hospital, doctor ... to ... hospital. We'll be right back with more "Guess The Terms of My Employment" after these messages.

Re:"professor's copyrighted lectures" (3, Informative)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969990)

No, work at a university is very different from the usual work-product for companies. Tenure and professors owning their own material is designed to prevent abuse from universities. Because the purpose of universities is the advancement of knowledge and not commercial gain (like your code example), there needs to be some protection afforded to those doing the actual advancement.

An example. A professor does great research at a particular university. Not being tenured yet, the university doesn't have to pay that person much. Now, say the university feels that this person is unlikely to repeat his results and denies him tenure. If the university were to own the work, they could just cut everyone loose, stifling the incentive for professors to work toward great results. Furthermore, the university could prevent that professor from presenting the work to others or otherwise publishing, thus making the professor equivalent to a post-doc to other universities--meaning the time spent at that university went to waste completely. Having professors own their own work affords protection for the untenured, as well as the tenured--a university could put a gag on things they don't like if they owned the work, or otherwise prevent its publication.

Re:"professor's copyrighted lectures" (1)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970110)

I forgot to add that your resume in an academic setting and your resume in a business setting are very different. In business, when you go from one job to the next, they will not ask you to provide samples of everything you worked on at the former job. A general list of duties and responsibilities comprises your resume from a job, not an exact list of everything you made/worked on while you were there.

In an academic setting, what you did (and often who you did it with) is far more important than where you did it, and it's not impressive to say, "I worked at MIT for 5 years" if you didn't do a single thing worthy of publication while you were there (probably why you're applying for another position ;)). A list of places and general list of what you did doesn't cut it in academic positions--they want to see WHAT you did, how good your work was, directly. Your papers and writings are your resume, not the list of universities you worked at.

Re:"professor's copyrighted lectures" (4, Insightful)

proxima (165692) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970094)

Why does a professor have a copyright on his lectures, anyway?

If anybody owns a copyright on those lectures, shouldn't it be the school?

This is an interesting difference between academia and the business (i.e. "real") world. I suspect that it comes from a combination of considerations and cultural aspects:

1.) Professors do research, and submit that research to journals for publication. Those journals often require the professor to sign over the copyright of the paper before publication. It's easier for professors to do that if they have the copyright in the first place.

2.) What about lectures? Some (a few) professors make a ton of money (or little money and a lot of recognition, in some cases) by selling their books. These books start out as lecture notes, typically, especially at the graduate level. Professor's salaries don't vary that much, so this is one way in which the better/harder working/better known professors can earn relatively more pay. That keeps them at a university that can't afford to pay them what they'd get if they quit and just published their textbooks, which is good for the university.

3.) A big consideration is probably the culture that a professor's work is not so much for the university itself, in the sense that professors move between universities all the time and take their research/lab/lecture notes with them. Would you honestly expect professors to have to somehow re-write their lecture notes upon moving to a different university? It just doesn't happen.

4.) Tenured faculty have a fair bit of power over university policies, if they collectively put their minds to something. While works created by staff and non-faculty might be the automatic property of the university, faculty (in the U.S. at least) typically get the copyright for much of what they create.

It's tempting to draw parallels between programming and research/lecture notes. The cultures, though, are quite different. In general, academics share their resources pretty openly, at least up until the point it becomes a textbook. To the extent that academics write code, it often isn't under an explicit license at all (which can be inconvenient if you want to properly include it in something for redistribution).

Patents are another issue altogether, and one where the university stands to make a great deal of money. I'm not at all familiar with the general breakdown of rights about those, but it seems that both the inventors and the university get a cut in many cases.

So what's up with this professor? It sounds like somebody is peeved that his students aren't attending class and would rather pay somebody to come in and take notes for them. Many good professors do the exact opposite and post class notes online, though they may not include quite everything that's worth getting from a lecture.

If notes were a substitute for a good lecture, most of us would learn by buying the best notes from the best professor in the world on a subject (which is only sometimes available as a textbook). On the other hand, a bad lecture is worse than a decent set of written notes. The solution is not to sue them, but to improve your lectures!

Re:"professor's copyrighted lectures" (2, Insightful)

Princess Aurora (1134535) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970184)

1.) Professors do research, and submit that research to journals for publication. Those journals often require the professor to sign over the copyright of the paper before publication. It's easier for professors to do that if they have the copyright in the first place.
An important part of the professor owning the copyright is the ability to publish. If the university owned the copyright, they could deny permission to publish a particular result. That power would grant universities the right to quash anything they don't like and keep potentially unpopular opinions or research inside--thus doing the exact opposite of advancing knowledge, the goal of the university!

Another thing to add is that if the professor leaves the university for whatever reason, he doesn't have to turn over all his notes that he used to teach classes there. Or if the professor wrote up notes and had them printed for purchase as a self-made textbook for students (like a coursepack--you know what I mean), then leaves, the university doesn't retain the rights to use those notes afterwards unless that professor gives permission, or there was a previous agreement that the professor was writing the notes FOR the university, as far as I know.

Knowledge=Power=Money (2, Informative)

AmericanBlarney (1098141) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969918)

This is why I find much of the academic community to have a ridiculous sense of entitlement. Does the professor have some intellectual property claim to the knowledge? Maybe. Does he have a right to make some money by sharing that knowledge? Certainly. Isn't that what the university salary is for? I think so.

Limited to liberal arts? (1)

cuantar (897695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969920)

I keep hearing about this sort of nonsense, but I have yet to experience anything even remotely resembling it for myself. I'm a science and math student; maybe it's limited to the liberal arts? I suspect every one of my professors would most likely be opposed to preventing the spread of course material!

Another Money Grab (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969970)

When I did the college thing in the 90's the instructors would put all their notes slides in public folders to do with what you please.

Now the damned profit motive has moved into the classroom.

Definition of "Lecture" (3, Insightful)

aegl (1041528) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969972)

Lecture (noun) : The process by which the notes of the teacher are transformed into the notes of the student without passing through the brain of either.

Freedom of Information (1)

Egdiroh (1086111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22969982)

Does Florida have a freedom of information act? The lectures are a work product for the university. This is the university of Florida, which I think makes it a stat university, so the university is the state, and the state (I hope) has no secrets. So the lecture contents can't be secret.

Not neccesarily on fair use (2, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970030)

I don't think the case'll turn on whether taking notes is fair use as on whether or not the student's notes constituted a copy of a protected work. Facts, remember, can't be copyrighted. I can write down stock market quotes and republish them in my own format all day and the source I get them from can't (absent some contract with me) touch me. The prices are facts, not expression. I can't copy their layout and formatting, but the numbers themselves are fine. So the question would be, are a student's notes recording, in their own words with their own formatting and layout having nothing to do with the professor's written lecture papers, the lecture a copy of the professor's work, as opposed to a wholy new work embodying the facts the professor used in his work? I think the simple analogy should convince the judge: "Is a movie review, summarizing the movie in the reviewer's own words and without copying any footage or exact lines from the movie itself, a copy of the movie?". The likely answer to that question is "No.", and the same for the notes.

Information restriction is what they used onslaves (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970032)

I'm against everyone who thinks information is property. I give out my ideas freely for people to use them, and I admire people that code things for open source.

Q: Why can't the internet just be one global library?
A: Because people are greedy bastards that want to use information to make money.

Wait, the *professor* has a deal? (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970050)

I'm missing something. The guy's at work, but he's selling part of his work product to someone else? I could see the university making this sort of a deal, but I'm not sure how the professor can claim rights to the work that the university is paying him for.

I almost hate to say it, (1, Interesting)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970092)

but most college professors suck. If they want to start treating their lectures as "Intellectual Property" I am fine with that, but they better damn well have a lot more "Intellectual" in them before they start calling them that.

Really, what we need is for the best professors to produce video lectures, especially for the subjects that change little from year to year (calculus, etc.) The rest of the professors can do what they want without having to bore us with teaching a subject that they seem to have little interest in, and the graduate students can grade our work and answer our questions.

Things seem to be heading this way, but not fast enough.

Ah (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970152)

I was modded by a college professor B^)

Disgusting (1)

assertation (1255714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970118)

This is disgusting. The professor & the e-book company should be arrested and beaten.

that wat up peepz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22970124)

Shit im glad i didnt' go to school

fast and loose with taxpayer money (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970126)

The reason that we fund public universities, the reason that we fund public education, is to promote the creation and distribution of knowledge. To distribute such information efficiently, there has to be a minimum of regulation to hinder the efficiency. Likewise, persons nibbling at the public purse cannot be allowed to misuse such funding for personal gain.

This professor is paid to deliver effective lectures to the students. The students and the country has already paid for that service. The action of this professor does not seem to indicate that he is fulfilling this function. First he has created a conflict of interest. He has set up a situation in which he will profit from doing his job badly. If he gives a bad lecture, students will be forced to buy the notes. The professor profit at the expense of the taxpayer and the student money.

When I was in school, professor notes and solutions were in the reserve stack at the library. Some profs were writing books and we were given pre press copies. Some profs had completed books, and we were required to buy, which was perfectly legitimate. What never happened was a prof tying to con me for more money on top of what he had already agreed to be paid as part of his or her contract with the university.

A lot of people talk about the fall of the US educational system. Perhaps the most scary thing is profs being no longer concerned about the education of students, but the pure extraction of profit from the public and private coffers.

The Lawyer is a Monster... (2, Funny)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22970186)

The lawyer is James Sullivan... where have I heard that before.. ahh yes Monsters Inc [imdb.com] . So now it becomes clear, making kids laugh wasn't enough either, now its back to getting Slashdot to scream on mass by attacking fair use.

Smart ploy Sully, smart ploy, it'll get us out of this energy crisis for sure.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>