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University balks at ex-student's selling of homework and class notes

Ryan Stevens

Recent graduate Ryan Stevens sought to put his business degree from Cal State Sacramento to use by creating a website where students can buy and sell lecture notes, old homework, study guides and other class materials.

The site, NoteUtopia.com, which was launched in August, is intended to function as an online community, a place to network, discuss courses and rate professors. But Stevens, 22, has run afoul of a little-known provision of California's education code that prohibits students from selling or distributing class notes for commercial purposes.

Now the young entrepreneur is battling the California State University system and claims that students' rights have fallen through the cracks. The case also touches on who controls the intellectual property of notes taken during class.

"All through school we're taught not to plagiarize and to use our own words," said Stevens, who lives in San Francisco. "We don't think that the government should be able to tell students what to do with their own handwritten notes."

Read the full story here.

-- Carla Rivera

Photo: Ryan Stevens developed the idea for his website in a class on entrepreneurship. (Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Sacramento Bee)

Comments () | Archives (8)

Isn't it under copywrite law immediately upon being written to some degree, even without you taking an action to copywrite it? Isn't that the same reason companies refuse to accept the unsoliciated ideas of others? Yep.

Let's be honest: Most universities have been selling worthless liberal arts "educations" for at least twenty years. With or without another person's notes and study guides, motivated students can get a better education on YouTube than they can on a modern college campus. And they can avoid all of the shrill, man-hating feminists and whitey-hating African-American studies professors too.

I can see a legitimate reason why students would purchase notes as not everyone is adept at note-taking but the selling of homework seems to cross the line. Why would anyone purchase "homework" unless they were planning to cheat?

u only need passing grades to get a diploma, I've never hired an attorney based on where they went to college or what their grade point average was. It was based on whether they understood my case, had time for my case and I wanted to work with them. It's easy to get C's and D's in college courses and you still get the diploma and plus I know some friends of mine that were top of their class and incredible college they went to and I would not hire them or work with them as they don't really get it and would be difficult to work with or hire.

True, you can get MIT lectures on YouTube. I've had a rash of bad professors lately, and often go to youtube or other sites to find better examples of what my professors are failing to teach.

1st Amendment issues abound here.

I am in my last year of law school. As you may know, buying and/or downloading canned notes and outlines is rampant in law schools. In the beginning, most students did it not to cheat, but because they felt insecure about the unknown. Reviewing someone else's notes helped with determining if one was on the right track. As seniors now, fewer students rely on canned notes. Truth is, I think class notes and homework are a student's own personal property that they should be able to do anything they want to do with them. I'd like to see this issue go all the way to the top if necessary!

How is this different than hiring a tutor who provides you worksheets and study guides?


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