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Lecture Notes Considered Infringement 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"
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Lecture Notes Considered Infringement

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  • Relevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:21PM (#22969714)
  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:24PM (#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:Fair use (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:28PM (#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.
  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Princess Aurora ( 1134535 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:28PM (#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:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:32PM (#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.
  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:36PM (#22969836) Journal
    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.
  • by MistaE ( 776169 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:37PM (#22969852) Homepage
    . . . 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.
  • by fishthegeek ( 943099 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:37PM (#22969856) Journal
    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:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:43PM (#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.
  • by BorgCopyeditor ( 590345 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:49PM (#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.
  • by capologist ( 310783 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @09:52PM (#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?
  • by aegl ( 1041528 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:03PM (#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.
  • by BorgCopyeditor ( 590345 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:03PM (#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:Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Princess Aurora ( 1134535 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:16PM (#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.
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:18PM (#22970030) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.
  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:29PM (#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!
  • Spite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Morosoph ( 693565 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:32PM (#22970114) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SL Baur ( 19540 ) <steve@xemacs.org> on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:33PM (#22970122) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LaskoVortex ( 1153471 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:45PM (#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.

  • by Princess Aurora ( 1134535 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @10:49PM (#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.

  • by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @11:05PM (#22970270) Homepage
    TALA (This ain't legal advice)

    Defense #1: The work must be fixed for this dude to claim copyright.

    17 USC 102(a) - "Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression . . ."

    17 USC 101 - ". . . A work is âoecreatedâ when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time . . .

    A work is âoefixedâ in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration. . . "
    So. . . If the professor is not either reading from a pre-prepared script or recording his lecture, he cannot claim copyright in it in the first place. This is pretty basic copyright law that students learn in the first day of a copyright course. I'm sure that his lecture is read from his notes but it is unlikely that it is read directly from it and I highly doubt he is recording it (which could be a way of fixing it that would give him copyright in it, assuming that it is copyrightable material.).

    Defense #2: Dude probably owns no copyright even if it is fixed.

    Facts are not copyrightable. This is even more basic shit that has been said by many courts including the Supreme Court. Assuming this guy is teaching a standard subject, the things he teaches are not owned by him. He cannot seriously try to claim copyright in the history of the United States or the Pythagorean Theorem (I haven't RTFA so I don't know what he teaches). The only possibility for a copyright here is what is called a "thin copyright" which would be in his "organization of the facts." So he's gotta prove that the notes taken by these students are organized EXACTLY as he organized them. And that may not even work. If it is some basic subject where the organization of teaching it is basic, (such as any professor teaching history would start from early then move to later, or any math professor starts at 1+1 then moves to 1+2) then the organization would be so basic as to not warrant any copyright.

    So my point is: defendant's motion for summary judgment that cites heavily to Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service [wikipedia.org] is hereby granted.
  • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @11:14PM (#22970326) Journal
    the university should be protecting these students by threatening to end the contract.

    Why do university students always forget that the professors are their employees? "The university" doesn't have to do jack, the students need to all drop all of that professors classes. It works, at my alma mater I saw a professor let go when his classes dropped to zero enrollment because he had sufficiently pissed off his students. I'm all for professors making a nice buck on the side, publishing or consulting or researching, right up until it starts to effect the quality of work that makes them professors; teaching the students.
  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Princess Aurora ( 1134535 ) on Friday April 04, 2008 @11:17PM (#22970334)
    The point is that if someone has a completely unique idea on, say, why the American Revolution occurred--some new understanding of the events that led to it--he wouldn't keep it to himself and put it only in his own lecture. He'd certainly try to publish it somehow--unless he thought it weren't good enough to get out there, but then why would he teach that idea? If he couldn't find anyone willing to publish it, meaning no one in the academic community supports it (thinks its interesting, or has merit), then how good can it really be?

    I didn't mean to say that a book can replace a discussion. Rather, every piece of information or understanding can be found somewhere, or will be found somewhere soon (pending publications). Finding it is a different matter (this is why we have lectures and discussions in the first place).

    Of course, the real problem is that our discussion here started from my misunderstanding of the article (thanks, abstract!).

  • Re:Correction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <`koiulpoi' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday April 04, 2008 @11:38PM (#22970426)

    Actually there is a big debate over whether Fair Use is actually a right.

    That there's even a debate really shows what a sad state the whole copyright system is in.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LrdDimwit ( 1133419 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @12:16AM (#22970608)
    Amen to that. Fortunately, this guy's lawsuit is going nowhere (note he's not a legal professor). The entire point of the notes is to take down the ideas contained in the lecture -- indeed, the point of the lecture itself is to transmit ideas! Unfortunately for this professor, ideas are not -- and never were -- copyrightable. Indeed, nobody would ever be able to make a new book, or movie, or song, were this not so; everyone borrows ideas, because at a certain fundamental level all stories are fundamentally the same. But worse, if ideas were copyrightable, then copyright becomes a kind of thoughtcrime.

    What you're not allowed to do is copy the way those ideas are expressed; selling transcripts of the professor's lectures would be a no-no. But assuming these notes are actual summaries of the concepts presented in class, this company is free and clear.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CityZen ( 464761 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @12:52AM (#22970808) Homepage
    I was just thinking that professors should apply copyleft or perhaps GPL to their lectures.

    After all, if he or she is a REAL professor, he or she will want the knowledge to be spread & shared as much as possible.
  • Re:Correction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by level_headed_midwest ( 888889 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @01:28AM (#22970920)
    Most university students rarely forget that professors are employees of the institution they pay money to attend, especially when the professors do something ridiculous. However, professors do not consider themselves employees of a university in the normal you get paid Y dollars to do X job like everybody else does. Most universities also do not consider professors employees in the same way that they would other staff, like the secretary or janitor. Professors have a very nebulous job description of "you'll do research and (maybe) teach every so often if you want to and we'll pay you." There are few specific requirements, most of which involve the minimum amount of classes they have to teach, ADA stuff, and to some extent class scheduling. Just about everything else is at the professor's discretion under the umbrella of "academic freedom." Couple that with tenure and you have what is essentially the ability to do pretty much whatever they want to and have permanent and largely complete immunity.

    And a few words about this topic from a student's perspective:
    1. DO NOT EVER BRING UP THE ISSUE OF A PROFESSOR BEING AN EMPLOYEE OF THE UNIVERSITY IN FRONT OF ANY PROFESSOR. EVER. This is an absolutely sacred issue to them as they don't want the cushy perks to go away. You'll get as strong of a reaction out of the professor as you would dropping a 10 kg block of elemental sodium into a hundred-liter tank of boiling 10 M HCl.

    2. "Academic freedom" WRT lecture notes means that they absolutely control anything related to giving out lecture notes. They can do anything from publish their entire annotated lecture notes online and expressly tell people it's okay to sell them to prohibiting taking of any and all notes, electronic or written, during their lectures. And there's not a thing you can do about it- I should know, I have tried and got ripped a new one on several occasions.

    3. "Academic freedom" only applies to THEM, not you. You have to jump through any and all of their hoops, no matter how inane. You cannot turn in work on a yellow paper with medium green lines and get credit if the professor said only yellow paper with light green lines will be accepted. If they want you to turn in your work written in Klingon or Ogrish, that's what you have to do. They can keep anything you hand in and not give it back to you to study later if they so desire. They reserve the right to change exams completely a day before they are scheduled and completely change the format too, if they so care to. They can make you submit your papers to anti-cheating sites for archiving if they want to. They can punish you in the grades department if they don't like the subject of an assignment where they explicitly said they are grading the content only.

    4. Most professors are reasonable to work with and don't run under the umbrella of academic freedom and tenure. If something is a problem, they will most likely work with you and the class to solve the problem if it is at all possible, and if not, explain why it isn't possible. The ones that do claim "academic freedom" typically are the pompous, self-righteous, egomaniac asshole type that like to be known as "the hard professor" and teach one or two freshman or sophomore classes that are required in a major. Their aim is to be THE ONE to "weed people out" as it gives them their jollies. This means they will be absolutely pedantic and grades will be artificially low. You also likely won't learn much as they tend to teach things in such a contorted manner so you don't actually understand the material, otherwise you may do "too well" on the exams without going and stroking their ego during office hours at the coffee shop. If you happen to have to take a class with one of these clowns, get out of it if it is at all possible as the class will want to make you tear your hair out. You can sometimes get around these professors as there are often more than one professor that teaches these classes. Either transfer out into another section or drop the class and wait to take it until you can get another professor. You'll be much happier.
  • Re:Correction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @01:43AM (#22970984)
    Except it's not criminal to then use the 1st amendment, just a breach of contract.
  • Re:Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:21AM (#22971128)
    THANK YOU for correcting the mistakes in this forum about fair use not being a right. When I see posts like that it makes me crazy about how uninformed people are, but I was at work and couldn't post back.

    But unfortunately you made some errors in your explanation as well, so please indulge me while I make some slight refinements to your argument and corrections.

    There is no question that fair use is a right. Just because it is also a legal defense doesn't matter - the two are not mutually exclusive.

    Hey, Slashdot dummies who never got any civics education in school? Here is the basic primer - play along now...

    The whole premise behind US government is that every person is endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. In order to protect these rights, citizens consent to the government placing a few restrictions on people - the whole purpose of the restrictions is to stop people using their rights in a way that takes away other people's rights. It's supposed to be a balancing act.

    So for example, my creator gave me the ability (the "right") to swing my arm around with my fist closed. There are a few laws that reasonably limit that, though. The essence of the state of those laws is as if they are saying, okay, swing your arms with closed fists all you like. We'll even specifically condone doing so and clobbering someone else's head under controlled circumstances (boxing). Otherwise, make sure when you're swinging you don't crash your fist into somone else's head, or property.

    So you wanna go out into a field and swing your arms when nobody is nearby? Of course, you have that right. Want to do so in your house, for ten hours straight - and even clobber your own furniture? Sure, you were born with that right. But we, the government that you created, are going to stop you if your arm swinging hurts someone else ... and only then.

    ALL US laws are like that - every single one. So when you think about the law, never talk about government giving people rights - under the US theory, that's impossible. You're born with 100% of the rights that you are capable of exercising.

    Instead, start from the premise that you have the right to do ANYTHING you want ... unless for some reason because you could hurt other people, there is some limited government law slightly restricting your right.

    So, repeat after me - fair use is a right. It's also a defense in copyright lawsuits (the nature of the defense is more accurately stated along the lines of "But, hey! I have a defense! I was exercising my rights!") Fair use is a right. There are a few restrictions on your originally 100% fair use rights, meant to protect copyright holders from being harmed by you. Those restrictions, and the way your fair use rights work in relation to those restrictions -- are described in part in copyright statutes.

    But there are reams of case law stating specifically that you have way many more fair use rights than are described in the statutes. Which of course is as it should be and only makes sense. You start from the premise that you have 100% ... and then check to make sure whether or not or how much your rights were whittled down a little.

    Okay, get it? Class dismissed now? You have rights. Use them freely. God wanted you to do so. That's why she made you the way you are. The only thing governments can do is take away rights. Hopefully, in limited fashion.

    And don't let uneducated Slashdotters (or, in all likelihood, industry trolls) ever tell you otherwise.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cattywhumpus ( 1098231 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:24AM (#22971132)
    No the lecture notes are NOT fair use. They're a completely new work and the copyright is owned by the student who took them. Remember, it's not the facts that can be copyrighted, it's the expression. Now if a court reporter took down the lecture verbatim, or someone recorded it, you might be able to make a case. But notes? No way. No how.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:47AM (#22971210) Homepage
    And even recording a lecture may actually let the copyright fall on the recording party and not the lecturer.

    Go figure if you are recording a nature event like a bird - does the copyright on that movie go to you or to the bird?

    Or if you make a movie of some people doing a demonstration. Is it you or the people that get the copyright on that work?

    And don't forget that a lecture is fact filtered through the lecturer's view. And a recording will only catch that view from the view that the recording position will provide. This means that any different angle or position in the lecturing hall will provide a different view and therefore be a different work.

    And unless it's explicitly forbidden to record a lecture it will therefore mean that you may record it. But some may argue that it should be the other way around - you may never be able or allowed to record anything without a written permission - which means that we are going into a dark future. Owning a pen or pencil will be licensed, knowing how to read is controlled by the government or the big corporations. Thought police everywhere.

    The "Freedom to Read (watch)" should be derived of the "Freedom of Speech".

  • Re:Relevant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:54AM (#22971238)
    No, you're not getting a license to some ideas - the prof doesn't own them. You're getting a professional teacher teaching some subject matter and some recognition of that after the fact.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WalksOnDirt ( 704461 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:54AM (#22971240)

    And don't forget - by writing the things down you will actually engage your brain much more and therefore improve the learning of what's taught.
    I always found the reverse. I could either pay attention and try to understand the ideas presented in the lecture, or I could write what I saw and heard for reference later. Which was more effective depended on the class. There was rarely time for both.
  • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @04:09AM (#22971450) Journal

    In 99% of the cases, professors do not teach anything original or new in the class. Whatever they say is usually already included in scientific papers or books. When taking lecture notes you do not need to record everything the professor says, you only need to capture their references to concepts, ideas, discoveries, research, studies, or other identifiable things so that you can know what your professor wants you to know. You then just open your books or search the academic literature and learn what you need to know (and at a much higher level than your classmates, I would say). For example, if during the lecture the professor refers to the OSI model, you write down in your notes "OSI" and then you open Andrew S. Tanenbaum's "Computer Networks" book at your home and find the relevant pages either by memory (if you had previously read the whole book) or the index (under the term OSI, it's actually pages 37-48 in the 4th edition). As simple as that!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 05, 2008 @07:19AM (#22971918)
    "If not then what exactly are your tuition bills paying for"

    What you always paid for... getting a diploma. Yes, sure, there is an element of learning, but most of the information that you learn in life will not come about from those 4 years at a university. You may not even learn to think clearly at a university.
  • Re:Correction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Axess Denyd ( 118635 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @08:15AM (#22972086)
    Wow, you've just reminded me of every reason that I completely and utterly despised college.

    Except "Three quarters of the professors have exactly zero understanding of the subject they're supposed to be teaching", but maybe that was just my department at my college.
  • Re:Relevant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Saturday April 05, 2008 @08:42AM (#22972192) Homepage Journal

    And even recording a lecture may actually let the copyright fall on the recording party and not the lecturer.
    That depends on the nature of authorship, which in the United States appears to be defined by case law. The person who fixes a live performance such a a lecture in a tangible medium may have a share of the authorship. But there is a concept of "neighboring rights" for performances, implemented in the United States through rules about unauthorized fixation [copyright.gov]. The personality rights laws of the several states cover the cases where that doesn't apply, as do the private real property laws of the several states when a property owner bans recording devices.

    Go figure if you are recording a nature event like a bird - does the copyright on that movie go to you or to the bird?
    I seem to remember an article about copyright in paintings by a chimpanzee. But I can't seem to find it in the noise results that Google returns, which mention copyright only in the sense of "this article is subject to copyright" rather than "this article is about copyright".
  • Re:Relevant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @09:55AM (#22972584)
    Copyright does, however, protect the expression of those ideas--the order of presentation of those ideas, for example. So to the extent that the notes capture that expression, they may constitute infringement.
  • by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @11:39AM (#22973194)

    I'm paying $30k+ a year you bet your ass that I'm gonna get the service I pay for. Research grants only show up if you have students to provide free labor

    • Undergrads pay, but produce little or no research.
    • PhD students produce research, but don't pay - they get a salary.
    • Masters students usually fall into one of those two categories, although some few produce research and pay.

    Unless your whole rant is about those few masters students - maybe 3-5% of the student body - you simply have no idea what you're talking about.

    Research grants only show up if you have students to provide free labor

    I've known plenty of professors who got plenty of research grants based on work they did themselves. Indeed, fewer students = more time to do research personally. Since most professors are talented researchers (otherwise they wouldn't have been hired), it can actually be more efficient for them to spend their time researching directly rather than advising students who research for them, depending on the quality and seniority of the students.

    Besides, if you think it's "free labour", you've never seen the budget part of a grant. Each grad student will typically cost $40-80k for their advisor, even though the student only sees $20k of that.

    it's much easier for students to transfer schools than for professors or campus presidents to find new jobs

    And it's easier yet for professors to find new students who won't throw a hissy fit and quit halfway through.

    There is no one with a more flexible mobile life than an average student: no mortgage, no spouse, no years invested in a company

    At least years "invested" in a company will usually get you a better job if you move to a new company; years invested in a thesis don't transfer as well to a new advisor at a new university. For any grad student past their first couple years, moving to a new advisor at a new university is very rare.

    The same understanding holds true later on in the work force: if you are truly good at what you do a small to medium sized business needs your labor more than you need their job.

    Solutions that work only for people who are better than average won't work for most people, by definition.

    Maybe you're a l33t uber-hacker who can order companies around, in which case that's very handy for you. Most people aren't, and can't. That doesn't mean they should take whatever they're given, but it does mean that their situations may be a little more complex than the simplistic answers you're pushing.

    Mutual respect makes for a very pleasant environment for work or school

    Indeed true, but what does that have to do with TFA?

    The prof isn't being an ogre or beating his students; he's just saying "you aren't allowed to sell my lectures". How is that so different from selling bootlegs of a concert?

    (It's all a little silly in my opinion anyway; the trend I've seen in the universities I've been at has been for the lectures to be made more and more available, to the extent that a number of places are videotaping them and putting them online. Given the general attitudes of the profs I've known, this trend is likely to spread fairly rapidly, at least among tech faculties.)
  • by SaxIndustries ( 1268118 ) on Saturday April 05, 2008 @02:26PM (#22974152)
    ...and I have had experience with both Einstein's Notes and classes with "text" from Faulkner press.

    Firstly, I believe Faulkner is one of the seediest text companies in existence. They're very cheaply produced, and usually not text at all, but a CD with the class information on it.

    I've had two classes like that: a basic computer skills course (taught by the business college), and another course titled Age of the Dinosaurs - which I took to complete Florida's General Education requirement for Science.

    Professors at the University of Florida are supposed to publish their required and recommended textbooks on UF's ISIS, to allow all the area bookstores the ability to order and stock the book (nearly all college book stores orders materials on the shelf by the course number). None of the Faulkner Press-related professors ever do this, they'll directly inform one bookstore of the requirement, and inform students they can only purchase the text at said store.

    Faulkner Press materials are rarely, if ever, re-usable. Any Faulkner Press text includes a CD with some kind of online component to it, with a one-time-use code, which you need to complete in order to participate in the class (Age of the Dinosaurs used online tests). While it's common for most textbooks to include some kind of online component with a one-time use code, most publishers will also sell you just the code, so students can purchase the textbooks used (if they so wish).

    The software on the disc is absolutely horrible. It'll run on Mac or Windows, with an interface that doesn't fit in either environment. It's amazingly difficult to navigate, I went through a whole month in the Age of the Dinosaurs class without knowing the "Notes" component was actually the class text! The documentation is next-to-none, covering only how to install it. On install, it copies nearly all the contents of the CD to the hard drive, and requires you have the CD in the drive to run the software.

    The only professors that use any materials from Faulkner are the professors published by Faulkner.

    The Age of the Dinosaurs professor stated he wanted to write a textbook, and wanted to include lots of pictures and sounds. He loved the idea of distributing it on CD, since the costs for that are significantly lower that a book with all those colors from the pictures.

    I'm not even going to delve into how the text materials were horribly written, contained glaring typos (both spelling and graphical errors), etc. It's a poor-quality product.

    I would have accepted that in 1995. All UF students either have, or have free access to high-speed internet, and UF provides all professors with access to WebCT, which provides hosting, discussion, tests/quizzes, etc. All of the contents and features of a Faulkner Press text could be easily implemented in an online system, which lowers the costs (I imagine UF could provide the bandwidth and storage for the professor) of publishing, and includes the added benefit of things like, encrypted sessions, students being able to use the OS/Browser of their choice, etc.

    The immediate benefit for all parties is cost. It could be, I dunno, free, as opposed to 90 bucks.

    The only professors that use Faulkner are either a) idiots or b) sleazeballs, and I say fuck any class that requires a Faulkner text, and fuck any professor that uses them.

  • Re:Relevant (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Sunday April 06, 2008 @09:12AM (#22979268) Homepage
    I was at a party. I have a life outside of Slashdot, you know. And indeed, with my work schedule, I'll be posting less for a few months.

    Anyway, given an ad-lib lecture that is not being simultaneously recorded and transmitted elsewhere, it's probably uncopyrighted enough that anyone can take notes and either have those notes be copyrighted (if the note-taker is being creative with them) or uncopyrighted (if they're uncreatively writing down everything that is said). Adding one of those two elements in, though -- reading a pre-written lecture from notes, or a sufficient simultaneous recording -- complicates matters.

    In the event that there is a copyright, students are likely to rely on fair use. I leave the fair use analysis to the reader (I have another engagement I need to go to), but I expect that it would be fair use for a student. A business, OTOH, has greater difficulty with the fourth factor, though n.b. that commercial fair use is possible and commonplace (see Campbell v. Acuff Rose), and that the issue isn't whether the infringer makes money, but more whether the infringement impairs the copyright holder from making money. If the commercial notes themselves are not published, and are only used for purposes of preparing a restatement of the uncopyrightable ideas in some non-infringing manner, then this further aids the commercial user in the analysis.

    Copyright is NOT the right to sell; it's the right to distribute.

    No, it's a bunch of different rights. Take a look at 17 USC 106 for the main ones.

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