Copyright Infringement 101 – Take Notes!

lecture_notes21.gifRemember taking lecture notes in college? Did you ever think you were violating copyright law? Well, according to University of Florida professor Michael Moulton, you were. And you might just as well burn those CliffsNotes, too.

Over the years, companies have sprung up to assist lazy or hung-over students with lectures by taking notes in their absence and selling them. Prof. Moulton believes this is copyright infringement, and it may very well be.

Prof Moulton and his publisher, Faulkner Press, are suing Thomas Bean, who runs Einstein’s Notes—which surreptitiously takes notes and publishes them—claiming such products violate the professor’s copyrights on his lectures. Read the complaint (PDF).

If this suit succeeds, it could spell the death knell for similar businesses across the nation, and threaten established business that sell summaries of copyrighted materials, such as CliffsNotes.

As mentioned in Ryan Singel’s Threat Level blog post, the attorney for Faulkner Press, James Sullivan, claims it’s not about the money, but about intellectual property rights.

But does the professor actually have a free claim to his lecture notes if they are, in fact, work product used in conjunction with his employment, and therefore at least partially owned by the university?

Regardless of how this case turns out, I just hope this doesn’t stop the flow of those 58.6 million emails I got last year that are recycled jokes sent along a chain of millions of recipients.

Er, on the other hand….

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