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Is it legal for me to record lectures in class? My friend told me it is against copyright laws.

Rochester, NY |
Filed under: Education law

I record lectures in my organic chemistry class, and distribute them online for a nominal fee. Is this really illegal, or is it fine since I paid to go to school? I also use the recordings for my own studying.

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Best answer

    New York is a single party consent state. So as long as you are in the lecture your conduct would not be criminal. In terms of violating copyright law I supposed that it could, but it would depend on your school's policy. You should look at your student handbook and talk to your professors. It is possible, maybe even likely that your professor will let you record. By way of a couple of examples of schools which allow students to record:

    NYU's dental school allows students to record lectures - see for example,

    NYU's student handbook states the following with respect to "religious holidays" for law students:

    "Students who have to miss a class because of a religious observance can arrange, with
    the permission of the instructor, to audiotape the class. It is the student’s responsibility
    to make arrangements for taping by asking a classmate to tape the class or request that
    the instructor ask for a volunteer. Students may check out audiotape recorders, subject
    to availability, from the Media Center in the law library or may use their own recorders."


    One of the schools I went to states in it student handbook:

    Tape recording shall be permitted for individual private study only at the discretion of the instructor. For any other use, whether by duplication, transcription, publication, sale or transfer of recordings, written approval must be obtained from the instructor for the specific use proposed. Any other use of recordings constitutes academic misconduct and may result in suspension or expulsion.

    With the permission of the instructor, students may tape record lectures, provided that the student and instructor sign a Release form available from departmental and faculty offices. A copy of the Release form shall be retained by the instructor and by the department in which the course is offered." (

    Thus, I think the best course of action is to speak to your professor about a) whether you can record; and b) whether you can share your recordings with your classmates. Also consult your course outline as it may state something about recording.

    Good luck

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  2. What you describe violates both civil and criminal laws, could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, and could land you in prison! Stop at once! Do not record lectures without the lecturer's permission, and do not even think about distributing the recordings to others without permission!

  3. Mr. Taylor is right, of course. And, in addition to the potential consequences identified in his response, what you are doing can also get you expelled from your university or college on grounds of academic misconduct.

    More info on that eventuality here:

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

  4. In California what you're doing is expressly forbidden by California Education Code section 66450 [visit the link below]. I don't know if New York has a similar statute but your own New York-licensed intellectual property attorney should check. And, as my colleague notes, your school very likely has a policy in place that forbids what you're doing.

    The above is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.

  5. As my colleagues explained, your commercial proposal violates several laws. Consult with your adviser at the school. See for example, NU student handbook:
    .... A student is subject to local, state, and
    federal statutes....The University shall have jurisdiction over
    all cases, other than those arising because
    of unsatisfactory academic work, that may
    call for discipline of a current or former
    student... violation of copyright laws
    (including unauthorized downloading
    or sharing of copyrighted files); and violation of any other University
    policy regarding computers, networks, or electronic communication.

    Read your school student hand book.

    This is not a legal advice or solicitation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with an attorney. I work for Cardinal Risk Mangement and Cardinal Intellectual Property, IP service companies, but not law firms. I also am the president of Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., which is a non profit educational foundation. I also write cultural and scientific compliations for the foundation. I also teach at Northwestern university as a guest lecturer. I also provide some pro-bono guidance on immigration and other issues through Indian American Bar Association. I also have a contract with Cardinal Law Group, a law firm, for IP projects. All this information is on my profile at Avvo and also at Linkedin. Any views/opinions expressed in any context are my personal views in individual capacity only, and do not represent the views and opinions of any firm, client, or anyone else, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way.

  6. I think you crossed the line since you are redistributing the lectures for profit. Even if the lecture theoretically belongs to the university as work for hire, you do not have the university's consent to sell its work product without its agreement. Also, I am certain that you did not inform the professor that you are recording and selling his lectures. The development of an efficient, comprehensive lecture takes a lot of time and talent, and even a particular lecture is honed over time, and updated necessarily. I know that when I lectured, I specifically advised students that recording in any form was prohibited absent my permission because of a disability.

    If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.

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