Note-sharing sites fall under legal grey area for students
For accounting sophomore Tyler Lynch, karma has been the key to his success at MSU.
Lynch posts his class materials on Koofers — an online site that allows students to share course materials for specific courses at MSU or for schools across the nation while earning karma points for any activity on the site. Users can post exams, create flashcards and rate professors.
MSU was the site’s No. 1 user with a total network of almost 7 million karma points as of Thursday afternoon.
Although some students use it as a study tool, they could be breaking MSU’s student policy on protection of property.
According to MSU’s General Student Regulations, students are not allowed to use any MSU document or record other than for its authorized purpose. Students also are not allowed to use or copy anyone’s property without permission.
“It is important that the property of individuals, student groups and the university be protected,” according to MSU’s general student policy on protection of property.
John Spink, a professor in MSU’s Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program, said students who post notes written in their own words are not violating MSU’s regulations.
“Any materials that are copyrighted cannot be copied and posted where they can be accessed by the general public,” Spink said in an email. “There is a ‘fair use’ clause allowing copying for your own use or for use by a small group, such as a project work team.”
Lynch, who is Koofers’ No. 1 user with more than 9,400 karma points as of Thursday afternoon, said he does not believe he is violating MSU’s policy because he only posts personal study guides.
Lynch said he has come across copyrighted materials submitted by other students on the website, and he also has found tests from previous semesters.
“Since I get a lot of useful information out of Koofers that has helped me choose classes and excel in classes, I feel like it is the right thing to do to give back what I can,” Lynch said in an email.
Chemistry professor Michael Rathke, who currently teaches an introduction to organic chemistry lecture of about 400 students, said he does not mind Koofers, except when students post exams. Koofers has about 200 reviews of Rathke.
“I don’t know whether (Koofers is) good or bad, but I don’t see any way to stop it, (so) it might as well be expected,” Rathke said.