Davis Faculty Association

Lecture Ownership-Student Notes

Most UCD faculty members go to a great effort to create their lecture materials and feel a strong sense of ownership in them. Student take notes at lectures and the internet has created a new market for the distribution of those notes. The instructor’s legal rights are long-established in terms of California law, but not clear in federal law. What can you do to protect those rights? Here is a summary based on an analysis by Jan Carmikle in the Business Contracts Office.

According to California common law, upheld by an older court case in which a UCLA instructor sued a commercial notetaking service, instructors hold copyrights to their lectures, and notes taken by students in their classes are therefore subject to restrictions as to copying and distribution, requiring prior consent of the instructor, such as the consent requested by Classical Notes on campus. So, as long as your lectures are given in California, this applies.

However, federal copyright protection of faculty lectures is not so clear. Federal law protects works “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” But, since few instructors lecture verbatim from their written notes, these lectures may or may not meet the legal definition of “fixed,” and therefore may not be fully protected under federal law. National note-distribution firms have taken the position that federal law allows them to conduct their business without the need to respect California law (and that of a few other states) on this issue. This position is facing legal challenges, but final court judgements have not been made.

What Can You Do?

Since it is not clear that federal law protects your work, it is important to mention the protection of state law on notices. Here is one that is suggested you put on class syllabi, handouts and web pages:

Copyright (author’s name) (year).
All federal and state copyrights reserved for all original material presented in this course through any medium, including lecture or print. Individuals are prohibited from being paid for taking, selling, or otherwise transferring for value, personal class notes made during this course to any entity without the express written permission of (author) In addition to legal sanctions, students found in violation of these prohibitions may be subject to University disciplinary action

While faculty do not necessarily want to keep students from sharing notes with other students in the class, this notice makes clear that any other type of distribution of personal class notes is not allowed.

If you find that notes are being distributed without your permission, you should collect any documentary evidence, such as printout of a web page offering the notes for sale which includes the URL and date (standard on most web browser printouts). The Business Contracts Office will take this information and send a “cease and desist” letter to the offending company, retaining documentation in the event you or the Regents eventually take legal action.

There are many other issues related to copyright ownership of interest to faculty members, in particular their ownership of recorded lectures. This is a matter of current discussion, although it is clear that the faculty own the products of their scholarly activities including lectures except when those rights are signed over. So, in the absence of any agreement, the faculty member owns the lecture no matter in what form it exists. DFA may present more details here in the future, and the following resources provide some current thinking from UC sources on the matter.

Additional Resources:

Business Contracts & Analysis website: http://vcadmin.ucdavis.edu/contracts
The UC Report on Copyright Ownership, http://www.ucop.edu/acadinit/copyright/reports.html

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 14th, 1999 at 2:24 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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