professorial copyright wackiness

This professor is claiming that a student note service violates his copyright on his lectures. (wired 4/4, link from Fred @ EFF on a mailing list)

Student note services gather actual student notes of lectures, and sell them to students — who presumably missed a lecture, took bad notes themselves, or want to see another professor’s take on the matter.

What am I missing? The professor is giving an oral lecture, based on his copyrighted “lecture”. (What, notes? sentences? powerpoint slides?) Unless he reads his copyrighted lecture verbatim in class, then his lecture as given is not the same thing as his copyrighted lecture. Copyright requires fixation in a tangible medium, so I don’t see how he has a copyright in the lecture as given.

He argues that he fixes his lecture in writing on overhead transparencies. That’s not going to be a fixation of the lecture as given, either.

Then he also argues that he records his lecture. That’s more solid, but I’m not sure simultaneous fixation is going to work in the non-broadcast setting.

At any rate, notes from a session would seem to be inarguably fair use, or even non-infringing. There’s an early 1900s English case that actually dealt directly with lecture notes and held that they were not infringements. I’ll have to dig that up.

I’ll be interested to see what the pundits think about the legal specifics of this and where I’m wrong. In the meantime I’ll just note that the word “schmuck” leaps to mind.