The Lecture Notes & Copyright

If you look at the bottom of each page of my lecture notes, you'll see a copyright notice, and a link to a more elaborate copyright agreement. Essentially, if you use my lecture notes, you are agreeing to certain conditions. One of those conditions is that you do not post my lecture notes online anywhere. The notes are not your property to do with whatever you wish. You are definitely not permitted to post them to an online notes-sharing website in order to earn credits or money. If you do so, you are in violation not only of copyright law, but also the Code of Student Behaviour. Whoa, that's pretty harsh, right?

Why am I being so sticky about this? Here's what happened a couple of weeks ago. I got an email from a student who had a question about something in the lectures they didn't understand. But the question they were asking was weird. They were asking about lecture material that was not in my lectures. At least, not any more. I thought for sure I had taken this particularly confusing section out, years ago. I double-checked, and confirmed that it was indeed gone. So I asked the student where they got my lecture notes from. Oh, an online lecture note sharing site, they said.


This unfortunate student had stumbled upon long-outdated notes posted without permission by a student in my class a few years ago. The student had missed a few days of class and instead of asking another student in that class (or me) for notes on what they had missed, they just Googled it instead.

This is why I copyright my lecture notes.

I don't want anyone coming across old, outdated notes posted on some random website. Yes, they may be filled in with all the blanks you missed when you were unable to come to class. But you could potentially be doing yourself a disservice--learning material that you don't have to, or even misunderstanding something important.

Yes, I do want students to take responsibility for themselves. If you miss a class, my policy is to get you to ask another student in the class for the notes. Why? Lots of reasons. You will get to know someone else. Many students complain that even though the university is filled with people, they feel alone--because they are not forming new relationships. There are loads of smart, like-minded people all around you. It wouldn't hurt to get to know someone new. You could, say, share lecture notes if one of you is sick. Smart students will make additional annotations to my lecture notes--not just filling in the words. These students tend to do better on exams. Although I can give you the blanks if you miss a class, that's all I can give you. It would be better to get annotated notes from a fellow student.

Even worse than posting lecture notes, I have found students posting their old assignments and papers online. This is a dumb thing to do. Not only can I download these papers too, I have electronic records of all assignments, going back more than 10 years. If a current student is dumb enough to submit your old assignment, it's a trivial matter to bust both of you for plagiarism. Yes, both of you. See, it's against the Code of Student Behaviour to provide material to another student. How would you like the University contacting you after you've graduated, telling you that your degree is being revoked? Yes, it's that serious.

So I've had to spend hours over the past couple of weeks writing takedown letters to multiple online note-sharing websites, which is a major drag. I'd rather be doing almost anything else.

If you feel my policies are too restrictive (and your social anxiety prevents you from talking to strangers), I've come up with a compromise. I am willing to set up a note-sharing forum on eClass. You can ask for notes or share your notes. I don't have a problem with this because it's under my control. If there are errors in the notes people post, I can fix that. I don't have control over websites that profit from my hard work--and, yes, it's hard work. I spend hundreds of hours developing my lecture notes. In many ways, my notes are the sum total of my work as an instructor.

Please don't give them away.

Why aren't you studying?


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