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Welcome to the Cornell University Copyright Information Center.

Copyright Management of Course Materials


Overview

The Cornell University Copyright Policy stipulates that copyright in course materials usually belongs to the faculty member who creates them. (Check with your department chair to confirm that this is the case in your department.) That means that you can specify who may reproduce and distribute your course materials. There are two common actions that faculty often follow regarding their content:

  • Allow the use of course material for educational, non-commercial purposes. MIT's Open CourseWare and Yale's Open Courses are two examples of successful initiatives under which faculty members allow their lectures, syllabi, and other course materials to be freely shared and distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. Open course material supports the broad educational mission of the university. The material is still not allowed to be posted to commercial sites, but there is little need since any student can find it on the web.
  • Limit the use of material on commercial sites. There are a number of commercial sites, the most prominent of which is Course Hero, that encourage students to post materials. While students are only supposed to post material that they have created or for which they have permission to post, in many cases faculty-authored material is posted without permission. The rest of this page offers steps to follow for faculty who want to locate, and request removal of, copyrighted course materials posted for resale on Internet sites such as Course Hero.

In some cases, posted course material is indexed by search engines. You can use the search engine to find the infringing material. For our example, we will assume we want to search for course content related to ORIE 3510. We want to customize the search such that we find content that is related only to Cornell's ORIE 3510. We want to exclude any content that is on Cornell web servers to reduce the false-positive rate.

  1. If you have not yet done so, create a Google account. If you have a Google account, log into it for this process. You can create a new account just for this process or use a pre-existing one. To create a new account, go to Google's Create an Account page.
  2. Go to the Google Alerts page.
    On this page, you can configure a search that will periodically report on the content that you are searching for. You can indicate how often it searches, how many results to report, and where you want the results delivered via email.
  3. In the "Search terms:" field, enter one of the following, replacing "ORIE 3510" with your course name.
    ORIE 3510 course notes cornell -site:cornell.edu
    ORIE 3510 lecture notes cornell -site:cornell.edu
    ORIE 3510 exam cornell -site:cornell.edu
    ORIE 3510 problem set cornell -site:cornell.edu
    ORIE 3510 homework cornell -site:cornell.edu
  4. For "Type:", choose "Everything".
  5. For "How often:", choose how often you want to see a report. Your choices are "Once a day", "As-it-happens", and "Once a week".
  6. For "Volume:", you should choose "Only the best results". Otherwise, you will have to sort through a large number of repeated entries or incorrect results.
  7. For "Deliver to:", choose the email address you are logged in as. That email account will receive a message periodically (based on what you put for "How often:") with the search results. Check this account for results.
  8. If there are unique or uncommon words or phrases in your content, you should include those in your searches. For example, if a particular class in ORIE 3510 focused on a "widget", put the following in "Search items:":
    ORIE 3510 widget cornell -site:cornell.edu

Sites known to redistribute course materials

The list of sites that act as markets or bulletin boards for course information changes every day. As of this writing, these are the sites that are the most popular. You may want to add these sites to your search terms. Alternatively, you may wish to get an account on the sites in order to locate material that has not been indexed by the search engines. For information on creating accounts on each site, see their web pages.

 

How to Request the Removal of Infringing Material

To have materials removed from a web site under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the copyright owner or agent must write to the infringing site's DMCA agent and/or Internet Service Provider (ISP). The DMCA agents for the most popular sites are provided below; agents for other sites may be found at http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/list/a_agents.html:

Here's how to look up the correct address of an ISP if the site does not provide contact information for their DMCA agent:

  1. Start at www.who.is. Type in the infringing site's address, for example, coursehero.com.
  2. This search tells you which of several registrars has the information you need. Look for the Whois Server; for example, the registrar might be GoDaddy.com, and the Whois Server would be listed as whois.godaddy.com.
  3. Go to the Whois Server address, and type in the infringing site's address again. Complete contact information will be shown.

You then need to send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the DMCA agent or ISP. The notice must include the information specified in 17 U.S.C. 512(c). Here is a sample letter:

 

Sample DMCA Copyright Notice Claim

To: [DMCA Agent]

My name is [INSERT NAME]. A website that your company owns (according to WHOIS information) is infringing at least one copyright owned by me. A paper I authored was copied onto your servers without my permission. My original article, to which I own the exclusive copyrights, is entitled [Name of Paper] and can be found at:

[PROVIDE URL]

The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at:

[PROVIDE INFRINGING WEBSITE URLs]

This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). I request that you immediately remove the infringing material identified above from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and tell them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.

Please be advised that the law requires you, as a service provider, to "expeditiously remove or disable access to" the infringing material upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.

I have a good faith belief that the use of the material on your web site is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. Furthermore, the information contained in the notification is accurate, and, under penalty of perjury, I certify both that the information contained in the notification is accurate and that I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]
Address
City, State Zip
Phone
E-mail

 

Copyright Registration and Litigation

Your original material is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. There is no need to register that copyright with the Copyright Office in order to secure copyright. Registration does, however, give you some additional options. One can, for example, bring legal action against a web site that does not respond to your takedown request as well as against the students who may have posted your material. Information on registering your copyright and the fees to do so is found on the Copyright Office web site.

 

Academic Integrity


Additional Resources

DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement - Sample Template from Digital Inspiration

Sample DMCA Take Down Letter from IPWatchdog

How to Send a DMCA Takedown Notice from Black Star Rising

Functional © Fundamentals from the University of Minnesota