Responding to professors' concerns about intellectual property, Yale University has demanded that Versity.com, a commercial website that offers lecture notes, remove all notes for Yale courses from its online repository.
Versity.com is an Internet company that pays students to take notes in large lecture classes at 150 universities across the country. The site then makes the notes available to subscribers.
"We directed them to take down from the website the notes provided and to not put up any more," said Lawrence J. Haas, Yale's director of public affairs.
Versity.com had provided notes for about three dozen Yale courses before the university requested their removal. Upon receiving a fax transmission from Yale's general counsel, the company said they agreed to drop the Yale notes.
A series of professor complaints led to Yale's action.
"Some faculty members had raised their concerns about the practice of their notes being posted without their knowledge or permission," Haas said.
Robert B. Donin, a deputy general counsel at Harvard, said he didn't "believe that Versity.com had any material from Harvard classes on their website."
"In general, faculty members own copyrights to their lecture notes," he said.
According to Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, "there is a general rule prohibiting Harvard students from selling lecture notes."
Janet A. Cardinell, the director of campus relations at Versity.com, said the Yale controversy would help publicize the controversial company.
"I think its going to increase the dialogue," she said.
She said she felt that professors' concerns are legitimate, particularly if they plan to use their lectures to write textbooks, for instance.
"It's a new, disruptive technology like MP3s," she said. "It is causing people to re-think knowledge."
Cardinell said that more than 17 percent of Yale's student body had been using the Versity.com site even though the site only covered 37 of Yale's classes.
She said that Versity.com CEO Chuck Berman had requested a meeting with Yale's dean, but that she did not expect any discussions to take place for at least two weeks.
Versity.com is "piloting ways of contacting professors" in the "least-intrusive ways," she added.
"It's unfortunate we caused such an uproar," she said.
Cardinell said that the majority of professors do not respond to mass mailings sent out by Versity.com. But five to seven percent of professors express concern that their intellectual property will be jeopardized.
She said that in this case Versity.com is "willing to block a set of notes or a guest lecture."
On the other hand, Cardinell said 10 to 12 percent of professors "really embrace the idea" and "understand how technology is changing education."
"Some professors have even used mistakes in notes to clarify their own lectures," she said.
The Internet company designates and trains one note taker per class in an hour-long online tutorial and employs quality monitors to look over the notes.
Though Harvard University is listed as an option on Versity.com's website, there are no Harvard course notes on the site. Cardinell said that the company was not operating on Harvard's campus.