Is an exam coming up, but did you skip lectures these past few months? No worries: you can buy summaries online for a reasonable price. But documents that include literal text written by the lecturers themselves are actually in breach of the law.

“Everything produced by a lecturer is copyrighted – from handouts to examinations,” says Dirk Visser, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Leiden University, in an interview with NOS. “You’re allowed to share your own summaries and lecture notes, but you’re not allowed to copy entire sections or layouts.”

Not amused

Dutch broadcaster NOS recently looked into the online trade in abstracts and other learning materials, speaking with representatives of Delft University of Technology, Leiden University and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. While the universities are not amused by students sharing lectures, examinations, readers and other course materials produced by their lecturers, they say there’s not much they can do about it.

The online sellers make very little effort to prevent their wares from including literal quotes by the lecturers’ hands. According to spokespersons of the Studeersnel and Stuvia websites, they do warn students not to upload any materials that are subject to copyright. But they don’t check the actual documents.

In Belgium, the universities of Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven actually prohibit their students from offering learning materials for sale online – even when they’ve written everything themselves. Students caught doing this risk suspension.