California State University and University of California campuses are taking new steps to limit what students can do with their class notes: At least one CSU Chico student recently was reported to judicial affairs for selling notes to a website, while a newly updated UC Berkeley policy restricts how students share their notes with others.
“Given the amount of money students are paying to go to school right now, to … confront them with these policies and say, ‘You don’t even have the right to use your own notes any way you want,’ seems to be the wrong message to be sending,” said Jason M. Schultz, assistant clinical professor of law at UC Berkeley and director of the university’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic.
But Berkeley’s Schultz questioned whether states can prevent students from selling their notes. Instructors have almost no intellectual property rights to what students write down in class, he said. Faculty members may have intellectual property in the books they write, articles they publish and even possibly in the lecture notes they write for themselves, but students own the copyright on their own notes, he said.
“Copyright is a federal law, and generally when state laws conflict with federal laws, federal law wins,” Schultz said. “Perhaps more important is there’s a First Amendment issue as well. If I take notes in class, and I want to share them, that’s speech.”