Who Owns Class Notes?

California State University has ordered one study aid company to cease operations, citing an obscure state law. According to an article by Claudia Buck in the Sacramento Bee:

NoteUtopia, a startup company for college students founded by a young Sacramento State graduate, has been ordered to “cease and desist” by the CSU chancellor’s office.

In a Sept. 21 letter, CSU University Counsel Gale Baker told [NoteUtopia founder Ryan] Stevens that NoteUtopia violates a state education code section that prohibits anyone from selling or disseminating “academic presentations” for commercial purposes, including handwritten class notes.

The letter comes only a few weeks after Stevens created the company. NoteUtopia is a website where college students can buy and sell academic material. Stevens, a Sacramento State graduate, launched the company to coincide with the beginning of the school year. His business had booths at events on three CSU campuses.

Despite the fact that Cal State seems to believe Stevens is violating state law, Stevens is legally operating a business. He paid state permits and even paid daily fees to Cal State to pass out NoteUtopia fliers on campus.

Furthermore, the whole Cal State position seems a little questionable to Stevens: “If students are writing their own notes on what a teacher is saying, we don’t see why the state can tell them what they can do or cannot do with that material. It’s a violation of students’ rights.”

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer