Legislation Forbids Lecture Note Sales





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Students who would rather purchase lecture notes from online companies than attend class may soon find themselves scurrying to class at 8 a.m., due to a bill Gov. Gray Davis signed over the weekend.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, prohibits the commercial sale or distribution of lecture notes at any UC, California State University or California community college campus, as well as at private universities in the state.

Companies that sell notes online are the major target of this legislation, said Dennis Hall, a legislative director in Romero's office. The bill does not apply to companies that operate in collaboration with university administration and faculty, such as Black Lightning, a popular lecture note service on the UC Berkeley campus.

Companies that sell lecture notes without consent of the university's administration and faculty are now subject to a civil penalty.

Unauthorized lecture note companies are a growing problem despite previous actions taken by UC Berkeley officials, said Michael Smith, the campus' assistant vice chancellor of legal affairs.

"Faculty have complained about this matter for years (with concerns ranging from) violations of their copyright interests to concerns about the quality of the notes," Smith said.

Carol Christ, former executive vice chancellor and provost, issued a notice last year prohibiting lecture note providers other than Black Lightning from operating on campus. In the spring, the university obtained a permanent injunction against R&R, an unauthorized company that had been selling lecture notes to UC Berkeley students.

The university's student conduct code also prohibits individual students from selling their notes without permission of faculty, Smith added.

The main problem with online lecture note providers is it is difficult to ensure the accuracy of their notes, Hall said. For example, one online note-taking service requires their student note-takers to be enrolled in the class for which they take notes and maintain a 3.0 grade point average, but there is no way for the company to verify that students actually meet these requirements.

"We feel that students are being served incorrectly, especially if your grade depends on it," Hall said.

Intellectual property and copyright concerns were also key issues that influenced the bill, although the final draft does not emphasize these issues, Hall said.

"We wanted to protect a little bit the faculty member's right to ownership," he said. "Because a faculty member is paid to be creative, we feel that their brain activity is their brain property."

Hall emphasized that the legislation is meant to curb commercial exploitation and not to discourage the exchange of ideas among individual students.

UC Berkeley's arrangement with Black Lightning puts much of the control over the distributed notes in the hands of the lecturer, Smith said.

"Under the protocol, Black Lightning first has to have the professor's permission to even sell the notes," he said. "Secondly, the faculty member has a right to review and approve the notes, and approve the person who is taking notes."

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