The question has come up several times due to the rise of file-sharing sites for school and lecture notes in Australia. You may hear some people or institutions say that it is illegal considering that you are sharing copyrighted material owned by the teacher or the school.
Admittedly, there is a grey area here, which explains the confusion. To their credit, these Australian websites have instituted a mechanism to make sure that the ownership of the notes won’t be called into question.
Avoiding Plagiarised Content
If a student uploads their notes on websites, such as Thinkswap, for instance, the papers undergo a series of evaluations and assessments. For one, they would be examined for plagiarised content.
So, if you only copy the notes verbatim from the board or PowerPoint presentation from your teacher, chances are, the website will reject the content you submitted. This is where the grey area comes in. If you copied the lecture note, those are the intellectual properties of the teacher. You need to ask permission before you can share it with others, especially for commercial purposes.
In the same vein, if you copied the research and reading materials assigned to you by the instructor, you will encounter the same legal roadblock. What most people are not aware of is the high rejection rate of these note file-sharing sites. Most of the notes uploaded will be rejected since they first need to pass the rigorous evaluation by the website experts.
Evaluating the Content
Once you upload your school notes on sites like Thinkswap, evaluators will immediately get down to work. They will vet your content, check the facts, cross-check them with the website’s large library of notes, and then run them through a proprietary plagiarism app to make sure that you are not only copying information from somewhere.
Of course, part of the evaluation would be the handwriting. So, those with very legible or beautiful longhand would have a high chance of being accepted. The reason for this is that the website does not want context and meaning to be lost in the translation because the words are hard to read. Besides, how can your notes sell if nobody understands them?
You do not copy the source material word for word. You are going to be flagged by the anti-plagiarism app anyway, an infraction that will merit an automatic rejection.
What they are looking for are notes that are 90% your own words, along with your own research on top of the lecture by the instructor. If you write in short-hand, make sure there are margins and explanatory notes to provide context. It is preferable that you have footnotes citing the source material. It gives students who download your content the luxury to explore the materials on their own.
When you do that, you own the intellectual property of your notes, which means you can sell them on file-sharing websites without any problem.
These file-sharing sites have become a platform to help students struggling with their courses. And your notes will allow them to see the subject from another perspective. But make sure you follow the above tips, so your notes have a high chance of getting accepted and, more importantly, downloaded by interested students.