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Course materials inappropriately shared on Course Hero and similar sites

Multiple commercial websites (such as Course Hero and Chegg) provide platforms to share course materials with other students and to use their collections of materials to study. Depending on the site, students and educators may be encouraged to upload lecture notes, quizzes, exams, study guides, or other course materials. Sometimes, a site will encourage adding content to the site by offering free access to features and other content that students would otherwise have to pay for.

If you do not want your course materials on these sites, you can have them removed and can decrease the likelihood of future sharing of this kind by following the steps below.

Get materials taken down

United States copyright law provides a fairly straightforward mechanism for having copyright-protected works removed from websites that host user-contributed content. When works have been posted inappropriately, a copyright owner can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to the designated agent of the website where the work appears. UC instructors generally own copyright in the lecture notes, syllabi, study guides, visual aids, and other course materials they create under UC’s Policy on Ownership of Course Materials, so takedown notices for course materials should come from the instructor who created them.

Check the website footer for a link like “Copyright” or “Terms of Use” to find a web form or the appropriate email address for a website’s designated agent for takedown requests, or search the Copyright Office’s designated agent directory. For some of the popular sites, web forms for DMCA takedown requests can be found at the following links:

To make sure you include all the required information and when a web form is not already available by the hosting site, you can adapt this DMCA takedown request form letter. Takedown requests usually take only about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially when using a web form provided by the hosting sites.

Prevent materials from being posted

Add signals for filtering tools to your course materials. Use the following sentence in the header or footer of course materials: “This content is protected and may not be shared, uploaded, or distributed.” Course Hero has provided guidance that its filtering tool will generally prevent the upload of documents that contain that statement.

Make your expectations clear to your students. Let your students know what you want them to share and how. You can include a notice in your syllabus, such as

“My lectures and course materials, including Powerpoint presentations, tests, outlines, and similar materials, are protected by copyright. I am the exclusive owner of copyright in those materials I create. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own use. You may not and may not allow others to reproduce or distribute lecture notes and course materials publicly whether or not a fee is charged without my express written consent. Similarly, you own copyright in your original papers and exam essays. If I am interested in posting your answers or papers on the course web site, I will ask for your written permission.”

You can also warn students that sharing course materials on a commercial website may violate the campus student conduct code. For example, the UCLA Student Conduct Code states that “copying for any commercial purpose handouts, readers, or other course materials provided by an instructor as part of a University of California course unless authorized by the University in advance and explicitly permitted by the course instructor” is a type of misconduct.

Use a copyright notice. As explained on the “What do I own?” page, copyright protection is automatic for any "original work of authorship" created by you and "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," so a notice is not required in order for copyright law to apply to your work. However, a notice may draw students’ attention, and may also be caught by websites’ filters targeting inappropriately posted materials.

The form of the notice should contain the word copyright or then © symbol, the year the materials were created (multiple years may be listed when new material is added in different years) and the name of the faculty member. Instructors may want to add statements such as “All rights reserved” or “Authorization is given to students enrolled in the course to reproduce this material exclusively for their own personal use.” You may also want to include your email address and indicate that permission requests should be directed in writing via email to you.

Share your course materials in your course website in your learning management system. If you post materials on a password-protected course website accessible to everyone enrolled in the course, students may have less reason to share them themselves on commercial websites.