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General Information

  • Lecture notes from a faculty member are protected by copyright.
  • To the extent faculty wish, students have the right to use those notes for educational purposes.
  • Whether copyright is owned by the student or the faculty member is impossible to determine without comparing the classroom (student) notes to the lecture (faculty) notes.
  • To the extent those notes are a copy of the faculty lecture notes the student has no copyright interest in them.
  • To the extent those notes are based on the faculty lecture notes but are a sort of summary of them, the student may own copyright in them.
  • Even if the student owns copyright in his/her notes, those notes may not, under University policy, be used for commercial purposes (permitting notes to be posted on a commercial website constitutes commercial purposes, even if the student does not derive any commercial benefit).
  • Faculty members might consider announcing this to students early in the semester, but our university copyright policy states that faculty members own copyright in their notes and indicates that students infringe when they then commercialize these notes.
    • This from page 14 of the policy: “student works that constitute notes of classroom and laboratory lectures and exercises shall not be used for commercial purposes by the student generating such notes.”
  • Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which added the notice and take down provision to the Copyright Act (and became section 512 of the Act, the notices have to be specific and cannot be a blanket notice. The notice must identify the copyrighted work specifically and include the name of the copyright holder.
  • The person who owns the copyright is the author who:
    1. Originated the creative expression; and
    2. Wrote it down

    The professor would own any creative expression in the notes that meets both of those requirements (so facts and generally known ideas in the lecture would not be protected). The student might have copyright interests in the particular notes as well if they are creative. If they are a rote copy of what the professor said, the student would not have a copyright interest.

  • For administrative purposes, the University and its faculty are justified in doing the following:
    • Submitting take-down notices to websites that post the faculty’s lecture notes without the faculty’s express consent;
    • Submitting take-down notices to websites that post student’s classroom notes without the faculty’s express consent;
    • Considering whether the submission of faculty notes and classroom materials yo a commercial website constitutes an Honor Court violation; and
    • Considering whether to advise faculty to include in syllabi rules governing use of lecture notes, other classroom material and student’s notes.
University Committee on Copyright

Copyright Law

  • U.S. Copyright Office – This is the official website of the U.S. Copyright Office. Resources available here include the text of Title 17 and other legislation relating to copyright, information on registering your work, and news about changes and developments in copyright.
  • Title 17 of the United States Code – U.S. copyright law is located within Title 17 of the United States Code. The Copyright Act of 1976 is contained here, as well as other provisions and supplements. Full text of the code.
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – This PDF is a summary of the Act, created by the U.S. Copyright Office. It provides an overview of each of the Act’s five titles. These titles include:
    • “WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act of 1998” (Title I)
    • “Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act” (Title II)
    • “Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act” (Title III)
    • Six Various Provisions in Title IV
    • “Vessel Hull Design Protection Act” (Title V)

What Copyright Protects

  • What is Protected – Copyright protects an author’s original work that is captured in a tangible medium of expression. Films, photographs, novels, plays, architectural drawings, software and original selections and arrangements of otherwise uncopyrighted material (such as an anthology of public domain poetry) are examples of works protected by copyright.
  • What isn’t Protected – Some materials, such as general ideas, facts and federal government documents are not protected by copyright. Many other items are not protected by copyright because the term of protection has expired. Any work first published in the United States before 1923 is no longer protected by copyright and may be used freely as part of the public domain.
  • ARL’s “Campus Copyright Rights and Responsibilities: A Basic Guide to Policy Considerations” – This guide was developed by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American University Presses, and the Association of American Publishers. The document was designed to incorporate the concerns and interests of each of these groups and present a unified document about copyright in higher education institutions.
  • Know Your Copy Rights – This is a new website designed for librarians designing educational programs for users of copyrighted materials in academic institutions. It was designed by the Association of Research Libraries in Conjunction with Peggy Hoon.