Legal Question in Intellectual Property in California

Is it legal to sell notes taken in a college course?

Would it be legal to sell lecture notes of a particular college course to individuals who may or may not be students of that class? Would permission from the lecturer need to be obtained?

Asked on 5/08/02, 10:28 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Keith E. Cooper Keith E. Cooper, Esq.

Re: Is it legal to sell notes taken in a college course?

This is not legal advice, and should not be construed to create an attorney-client relationship. The general information provided may or may not apply in your particular situation.

The first question I have for you is whether these are notes you took or whether the notes were taken by someone else or off of a recording.

Generally, ideas are not copyrightable, but the expression of ideas is. If these lecture notes are your expression of what the lecturer said, then you are probably within your rights to sell them (and perhaps even copyright them). If, however, the notes belong to the lecturer or another notetaker, you would need that person's permission to use them. In addition, if the notes are direct transcriptions from a recording, the copyright belongs to the lecturer, not to you.

You would not be the first person to sell lecture notes. In fact, a student from Harvard law school in the 70s began selling his class notes and turned it into a still-thriving nationwide commercial enterprise of law school supplements. [One of his professors discovered that the notes contained a mistake and put that mistake on the final, however, just to sabotage the guy.]

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Answered on 5/13/02, 4:47 pm

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