Plagiarism and Note Selling

Have you run into students selling notes from your classes?  The UO has policies that faculty can use to protect themselves from this activity that degrades the quality education we try to deliver.

Commercial note-selling agencies are tricky and making pitches to students which make it appear as if UO or faculty sponsor for-profit note-taking ventures.  StudySoup is one such commercial note-selling agency that advertises to students via email solicitations:

Study Soup Example

How can you safeguard yourself (and students) from selling course material that you carefully crafted?  While UO does not have an explicit policy on commercial note-selling, three existing UO policies bear on this issue.  They are: 

  1. Intellectual Property Rights Issues: Course designs are copyrighted by faculty. Lectures, including powerpoint slide content, are the faculty’s intellectual property and even “derivative work” (such as notes on lectures) is protected by copyright. Faculty do not need to file with any copyright office or write a © on material for this protection to apply.
  2. Plagiarism:  Distribution of course material (including notes) to a commercial website falls under the UO’s definition of plagiarism (part of the UO “Student Conduct Code”) abstracted here:

(26) “Plagiarism” means using the ideas or writings of another as one’s own. …(b) The unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency engaged in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.  (http://uodos.uoregon.edu/StudentConductandCommunityStandards/StudentConductCode.aspx)

  1. UO Information Technology “acceptable use policy”: The UO prohibits use of its computing resources for commercial purposes (see https://it.uoregon.edu/acceptable-use-policy).  It is an infraction of this policy for email or Canvas to be used to make contractual agreements with note-selling agencies or disseminate notes for pay to fellow students.

To be clear, these concerns about note-selling are entirely separate from approved note-taking services such as those offered by the Accessible Education Center to aid students with documented disabilities (http://aec.uoregon.edu/).  Similarly, collegial sharing of notes among classmates or studying in groups is encouraged and is not an area of concern.

To the extent it is helpful, I include below a template that you are free to edit and may want to incorporate into your syllabus.  An announcement such as this helps protect you and students who are being targeting by note-selling companies and are likely not aware of the ethical implications and just may want to earn a buck.

  • Intellectual Property Rights Issues (also known as Do Not Post Class Notes Online): I do not consent to having notes from my class uploaded to the internet, including commercial note-selling websites.  Some companies target students and solicit course material acting as if they are working in coordination with colleges and universities but that is not true for this class.  My course design is copyrighted by me and I do not consent to mass distribution of these materials.  My lectures, including powerpoint slide content, are my intellectual property and your creation of a derivative work (student notes from lecture) falls under this copyright protection.  The distribution of course material (including your notes) to a commercial website falls under the UO’s definition of plagiarism (see “part b” at: http://uodos.uoregon.edu/StudentConductandCommunityStandards/StudentConductCode.aspx).  Furthermore, such action violates UO’s information technology “acceptable use policy” which prohibits use of its computing resources for commercial purposes (see https://it.uoregon.edu/acceptable-use-policy).
  • Sanctions: Violation of “Intellectual Property Rights Issues” will result in a full grade deduction of the final grade or a failing grade for the entire course, depending on my determination of the severity of the misconduct.  I reserve the right to report any student ethical misconduct to the Dean of Students, who may impose additional sanctions, and this will become part of your permanent University record.

While this topic is a “downer” it is becoming a rampant problem at university and college campuses across the nation.  I hope this information is helpful to you as you move forward in this high-tech and profit-driven world of ours.

 

Jessica Vasquez-Tokos
Associate Professor
Sociology Department