Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Remember that hypothetical about whether taping lectures infringed on rights in the prof's notes?

Hypothetical no more: offers money for tapes and notes of targeted professors' classes. The idea is to expose ideological bias. Once students are taping, or even taking notes, for pay, they probably have exceeded the scope of any implied license. And here's an instance where the copy-shop cases pose a problem for students: while's political program undoubtedly offers it a fair use defense for reproducing portions of lectures/notes that show professors' bias, students who provide the entirety of a semester's content -- as required by the site's offer - are engaging in wholesale, for-profit copying, and the fact that this copying is in the service of someone else's ultimate fair use is, under current precedent, unlikely to help.

A couple of points: The disclaimer says the site won't accept any tapes if the professor hasn't agreed to be taped, so that could solve the taping problem, but that still leaves the issue of whether detailed notes of a class could be a derivative work of the professor's notes.

The disclaimer also says the site won't pay "for copyrighted materials in any form." Yet students only get full payment for "full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session." Plainly (and understandably, since I doubt anyone behind the site is a copyright lawyer) they're ignoring the copyright in the lecture notes -- no matter who holds that copyright, it exists unless the class is entirely unoriginal even in selection and arrangement -- and the tape recordings. I guess the disclaimer means students are supposed to turn over their John Stuart Mill handouts but not their Re-Elect Obama handouts.

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