CSU Orders Site To Stop Selling Students' Lecture Notes

October 19, 2010

Close up of student taking notes during classA new college note-sharing service was ordered to "cease and desist" by the California State University, reported the Golden Gate XPress.

The site, NoteUtopia.com, allows students to buy and sell class notes and materials. The site suggests $1 for class notes, $2 for a study guide and up to $5 for an exam, but students are free to set their own rates. NoteUtopia keeps 40 percent of each sale.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the site began operation in August at three Cal State campuses: Chico, East Bay and Sacramento. It was founded by CSU Sacramento graduate Ryan Stevens. At the time, Stevens was a student and wanted to create a space where classmates could share course materials and hold online discussions. "We wanted to create this perfect place for students to come and have everything they need. We're trying to build social study networks and bring social networking back into education," explained Stevens to the Golden Gate XPress.

Michael Uhlenkamp, a Cal State spokesperson, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the note-sharing service violates a state education code barring the distribution of lecture notes, handwritten or typewritten, for profit. On September 21, the site was ordered to stop commercial operations across all 23 CSU campuses and publish a disclaimer on their site stating that selling lecture notes is illegal. Cal State also sent out a system-wide email warning students that selling class notes was a violation of state laws and could potentially result in expulsion.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Stevens was shocked. Campus officials and Internet law experts said the ban is so obscure that many people had no idea it even existed. Furthermore, the site was originally a project for Stevens' business entrepreneurship class. He was granted permits and paid daily fees to promote and market NoteUtopia at Chico, East Bay and Sacramento.

Although Stevens has complied with CSU's requests, he plans to put up a fight. "If students are writing their own notes on what a teacher is saying, we don't see why the state can tell them what they can do or cannot do with that material. It's a violation of students' rights," he said.

Moreover, the website offers other services that do not violate the California law. The Golden Gate XPress stated that NoteUtopia also allows students to join and form discussion groups, post questions about lectures, engage in live chat and receive feedback from professors.

Despite the controversy, students continue to join NoteUtopia. Stevens told the Golden Gate XPress that since receiving the cease-and-desist letter, the site has seen "unprecedented growth" and visits have more than tripled. "We'd never seen so much traffic to the website until after that letter came. If anything, the letter did a lot of good for us," he said.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Cal State Bans Students From Using Online Note-Selling Service," chronicle.com, October 18, 2010, Travis Kaya

"CSU orders NoteUtopia to cease its note-selling operation," sacbee.com, October 16, 2010, Claudia Buck

"CSU's crack down on note sharing site," xpress.sfsu.edu, October 5, 2010, John Blomster

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