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Lawsuit Claim: Students’ Lecture Notes Infringe on Professor’s Copyright

University of Florida professor Michael Moulton thinks copyright law protects the lectures he gives to his students, and he’s headed to court to prove it.

Moulton and his e-textbook publisher are suing Thomas Bean, who runs a company that repackages and sells student notes, arguing that the business is illegal since notes taken during college lectures violate the professor’s copyright.

Faulkner Press filed suit in a Florida court Tuesday against the the owner of Einstein’s Notes, which sells “study kits” for classes, including Professor Michael Moulton’s course on “Wildlife Issues in the New Millennium.”

Those notes are illegal, Faulkner and Moulton contend, since they are derivative works of the professor’s copyrighted lectures.

If successful, the suit (.pdf) could put an end to a lucrative, but ethically murky businesses that have grown up around large universities to profit from students who don’t always want to go to the classes they are paying for.

The suit could also have ramifications for more longstanding businesses such as Cliffs Notes, which summarize copyrighted novels.

Faulkner Press publishes two e-textbooks that Moulton wrote and uses in his classes, and sells its own set of class notes for the course.

But James Sullivan, Faulkner Press’ attorney, says the suit isn’t about money for the professors, it’s about protecting its intellectual property.

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