Administrative Policies

AD40 Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Yvonne Gaudelius, 814-863-1864,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff



To establish University policy on recording of classroom activities and commercial note-taking services.


Copyright protection subsists in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Works of authorship include the following categories: literary works; musical works, including any accompanying words; dramatic works, including any accompanying music; pantomimes and choreographic works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. These categories include dictionaries, directories, computer programs and databases. Copyright protection does not extend to ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries, although these may be protectable under patent and trade secret laws.


An original work of authorship prepared by a faculty member is subject to copyright protection. The "original hard copy" material in printed or tangible form includes but is not limited to) handouts, diagrams, photographs, motion pictures, and computer programs, databases and audio and video recordings.

The Copyright Act prohibits the unauthorized reproduction and/or sale of "original hard copy" works of authorship prepared by a faculty member, and presented, offered or distributed during a class lecture.

A faculty member's oral lecture presentation generally is ephemeral, and therefore not subject to copyright protection because it is not fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. However, a faculty member has a privacy interest in the unauthorized recording of his/her oral lecture presentation, and the faculty member may prohibit the unauthorized recording of oral lecture presentations.

Classroom recordings (as defined by University Policy AD40), created by faculty and staff during the Spring 2020 semester and 2020-2021 Academic Year will not be reused by the University beyond the semester in which they were created without the prior written authorization of the recorded faculty or staff.


Student-initiated, faculty-initiated, and University-directed recordings can include traditional audio and video recordings of classroom lectures, activities, and course material as well as new communications technologies that provide for streaming and digital transmissions or recording of such instructional content or communications between faculty members and students or students engaged in class activities.  With the exception of recordings strictly for individual use (i.e., they will be viewed and/or heard only by the individual making the recording), if the recordings include student activities, the person responsible for recording should inform in advance anyone whose activity is being recorded and explain the likely use of the recording.  Any subsequent usage of recordings must be in compliance with privacy policies discussed below.

Student Initiated Recording

A student must not record activity in classrooms or other instructional settings without the express permission of the faculty member responsible for instruction in the course.  Authorized student-initiated recordings must be used only for the education of the students enrolled in the initiating student’s class during the period in which the student is enrolled in the class. In addition to the requirements in the preceding paragraph, an authorized student-initiated recording must not be made available to anyone outside of the students enrolled in the class in any fashion, including posting online or through other media without the express written consent of the faculty member responsible for the course or the cognizant University administrator.

Faculty Initiated Recording

When a faculty member responsible for a course initiates the recording of lectures or other classroom activities in that course and when such recording does not require University resources in excess of what would normally be allocated in similar instructional settings, the faculty member shall have copyright ownership rights to and plenary control over the subsequent use of the recordings subject to the University’s license and the privacy protections noted below.  Although the University does not assert ownership of such recordings, it shall have a non-exclusive, royalty-free right and license to use and retain copies of such recordings for instructional purposes.

University-Directed Recording

Directed recordings are those created at the specific direction of a University unit for the University’s ownership and use. A recording will be deemed a University-directed work if it is created pursuant to a written agreement between the faculty member or staff member and the University unit or pursuant to the standing policy of the unit in which the class is taught. Employees in staff positions should clarify with their supervisors as to whether a particular project should be considered directed work as part of the employees normal duties. A recording will be considered a University-directed work regardless of whether it is made by a University employee or by an external entity at the University’s request.

Use of Recordings

All decisions regarding current and subsequent use of recordings should further the University's paramount purpose of advancing and sharing knowledge. University-directed recordings or faculty-initiated recordings may be archived by the University and made accessible to the University community for internal use. Before any recordings are used in subsequent Penn State classes or made otherwise available, the recorded faculty member should be consulted if possible to ensure academic quality and to verify the currency of the recorded content. Any commercialization or external use of University-directed recordings shall occur only by written permission of the faculty member whose course was recorded.  The contribution of the recorded faculty members shall be appropriately acknowledged in any future use of recordings if he or she indicates a desire for such attribution.


Faculty and students engaged in the instructional process have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Assurance of privacy encourages open and robust discussions on issues and ideas without fear that any statements made will be used for inappropriate purposes and, thereby, enhances learning. Implementation of this policy shall be in keeping with AD53-Privacy Statement, that recognizes the University's obligation not to infringe upon the reasonable privacy expectations of faculty, staff and students in classrooms and other instructional settings, subject only to applicable state and federal laws and University regulations.

Student-initiated, faculty-initiated, and University-directed recordings of student activity online, in classrooms, or in other instructional settings may be used by the faculty member and registered students for only internal class purposes and by only the students during the period in which the course is being offered. Recordings in which student activity is included may be subsequently performed, displayed, or made available online or otherwise only with the informed consent of the students involved or if all student activity is excised. A faculty-initiated recording that includes student activity may be retained by the faculty member only for his or her individual use.


A registered student lawfully may take original hand written or typed notes during an oral lecture presentation and may sell those notes in the free marketplace. The notes may be subject to copyright protection, provided the notes represent an original work of authorship, but any such copyright would not impact in any manner on the faculty member's ownership of the subject matter presented orally, nor the hard copy materials presented and/or distributed during the lecture.

Audio or video recordings of classroom activity by students for the purposes of note-taking are subject to the rules governing student-initiated recordings in this policy.

The following statements have been developed from an interpretation of the federal Copyright Act and University policy, to serve as a guide to faculty rights on note-taking issues:

  1. Any reproduction of the "fixed and tangible form" of a faculty member's original work(s) of authorship is prohibited by the Copyright Act, and would be subject to a copyright infringement action brought by the faculty member, as copyright owner; or by the University, as copyright owner, in the case of works for hire.
  2. Notes taken during an oral lecture presentation should be an interpretation of, and not a verbatim transcript of the lecture material. Such notes generally are construed to be original. Students have no copyright ownership of verbatim transcripts or substantially verbatim notes.
  3. If notes taken during an oral lecture presentation can be shown to be original, they may be copyrighted by the note-taker/note-taking service and sold to third parties, but this copyright does not transcend the ownership rights of the faculty member to the original lecture material, nor the future uses of that subject material.
  4. Only formally registered students may attend class and qualify as a note-taker. The policy basis of excluding non-registered students, or non-students, from attending class is two-fold:
    • Such individuals have not contracted for the educational services provided in the class, and
    • University Policy AD27 prohibits the use of University facilities and/or property for commercial sales activities by individuals or non-University organizations.
  5. Nothing contained in this policy is intended to restrict a faculty member's right to conduct a class as he/she deems most appropriate, such as electing to distribute class notes in order to promote class interaction, the use of taped lectures, etc.


The following is a permissible exception to this policy:

  • Any accommodations required by Federal or State law for disabled students. Contact the Office of Disability Services for current legal requirements and details on the services provided for disabled students.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Dean and Vice President for Undergraduate Education and/or the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School.


Other Policies in this Manual should also be referenced, especially the following:

AD27 - Commercial Sales Activities at University Locations,

AD53 - Privacy Statement,

AD77 - Engaging in Outside Professional Activities (Conflict of Commitment),

IP01 - Ownership and Management of Intellectual Property (Formerly RA11 - Patents and Copyrights [Intellectual Property]), and

IP05 - Policy Governing Copyright Clearance (Formerly AD46).

Most recent changes:

  • August 10, 2020 - Policy amended to add provisions with respect to the use of classroom recordings in the 2020 spring and summer semesters and the 2020-21 academic year. 

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • February 23, 2015 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • May 20, 2013 - Major revisions throughout the entire policy, per recommendations by the Intellectual Property Review Committee, amending the policy to establish rules which include the recording of lectures and other classroom activities and materials, the subsequent use of recordings of classroom activities, privacy expectations, and clarifications on note-taking and commercial note-taking services.
  • June 15, 2006 - Revision History added.
  • September 1, 1992 - New Policy.

Date Approved: 

August 24, 2020

Date Published: 

August 24, 2020

Effective Date: 

August 24, 2020