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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 |

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.

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Attorney answers 6

Posted

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, http://www.nyu.edu/dental/news/?news=177

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."

(http://www.law.nyu.edu/ecm_dlv4/groups/Public/@nyu_law_website__students__student_affairs/documents/Documents/ECM_DLV_010197.pdf)

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." (http://www.ucalgary.com/pubs/calendar/current/e-6.html)

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

Atty: 845-704-7777. This answer is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should not take action based upon this information without consulting legal counsel. This answer is not intended to create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship. PLEASE REMEMBER: All claims and legal matters have statutes of limitations and/or other important time periods that apply to them. This means that you must take action on all claims or legal matters within the required time period(s) or your claims could be barred by the statute of limitations or dismissed. Contact our office or another competent attorney immediately to discuss the particular facts of any claim or legal issue you might have in order to learn what time periods apply to your particular situation.

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Posted

In my view, the issue of concern re the potential for serious university discipline is the sale of the tapes without the consent or knowledge of the instructor. Taping, even sharing, might be pleaded as ignorance or immature judgment. Making money from the instructor's intellectual property is very hard to finesse by any argument.

Daniel DeMaria

Daniel DeMaria

Posted

I see your point, but the poster did say "nominal fee". I assumed that meant a dollar to cover the cost of a mediafire subscription, or a dropbox subscription or something similar (i.e. the equivalent of giving someone one dollar to cover the cost of a blank cd). Also, I assumed that the people purchasing these lectures were her classmates who could have tape recorded the lectures themselves. Perhaps I'm mistaken in my assumptions in which case I would agree with your point.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Have a look at the federal wiretapping law, counsel: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2511

Daniel DeMaria

Daniel DeMaria

Posted

My understanding is that even the federal laws are "one-party consent", "(c) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person acting under color of law to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication, where such person is a party to the communication or one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent to such interception." 18 USC § 2511(2)(c) In my view, a student would be a "party to the communication" at least in those 99% of cases where students can ask questions during lecture, and/or are asked questions by the professor during lecture. Again though, and as I mentioned in my answer, the person recording has to be physically present while recording, otherwise it would run contrary to federal and NY law. I recently had to research this issue and found this chart to be very helpful, though of course I consulted the statutes in question to verify. http://www.rcfp.org/reporters-recording-guide/tape-recording-laws-glance

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Agreed that the chart is good and I also have recommended it to Avvo users. Generally I think of lectures as the public performance of copyright-protected material, and unauthorized recording as infringement in violation of the criminal law. I think it is a stretch to conceive of lectures as conversations, although some classes may consist of instruction interspersed with back-and-forth. As respects the federal wiretap statute, "under color of law" must mean something; on who engages in infringement by recording a public performance of a copyright-protected work is hardly acting "under color of law."

Posted

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!

Asker

Posted

I am fine if no one finds out though, correct?

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

You are selling copies. Other people already know. Stop!

Posted

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: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/hard-facts-for-students-re-cheating-plagiarism-and-other-academic-integrity-violations

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Posted

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.

L. Maxwell Taylor

L. Maxwell Taylor

Posted

Very enlightening. Thank you.

Posted

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.

Posted

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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