According to a story in The Los Angeles Times, recent graduate Ryan Stevens sought to put his business degree from Cal State Sacramento to use by creating a website where students can buy and sell lecture notes, old homework, study guides and other class materials.

The site,, which was launched in August, is intended to function as an online community, a place to network, discuss courses and rate professors. But Stevens, 22, has run afoul of a little-known provision of California’s education code that prohibits students from selling or distributing class notes for commercial purposes.

Now, the young entrepreneur is battling the California State University system and claims that students’ rights have fallen through the cracks. The case also touches on who controls the intellectual property of notes taken during class.

The university then e-mailed students at its 23 campuses, warning them that selling class notes “including on the NoteUtopia website, is subject to discipline, up through and including expulsion from the university.”

But legal experts said that notwithstanding California’s education code, the question of whether the state can prohibit the sale of lecture notes is far from settled.

When students summarize a lecture, they create a new work that they own under federal copyright law, said James D. Nguyen, Beverly Hills attorney and former chairman of the intellectual property section of the State Bar of California.

Photo by Sacramento Bee.

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