I've read a lot of articles right now (I'm french) on this topic, and I gotta say I'm pretty confused. I perfectly understand that unless some uni teacher directly allows me to use his work, I don't have rights to use it in any way. But I'm struggling to understand is what about:

  1. What I copy from what he writes on the board during his class?
  2. What I reword (on my own format) after the class?

2 Answers 2


By the usual definition of MOOC, you have permission to copy any material, although the person who gives you permission may not actually have that right. E.g. the instructor could make available protected material that they cannot grant permission to copy. However, they can grant permission to copy the stuff that they create – the stuff that they write on the blackboard, for example. By writing the material down, it has the fixed form that entitles it to copyright protection. But you really need to look at the license that is granted to you to see just how "open" the course is. For example, rewording is creating derivative material, and you may not have permission to create derivative works. In a non-trivial number of courses that I've seen, the instructor fails to include a license statement.

  • So what you are saying is that I pay a licence to be in his class (what I pay to be in this university)? So I can copy his work but my teacher owns the knowledge he gave me? So I can't try to be a teacher on my free time and explain what someone (my teacher) taught me? Commented Feb 1, 2020 at 0:13
  • 1
    @AxelCarré knowledge is not protected by copyright. A particular expression of some knowledge is protected by copyright when it is first created.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 6:15

By the nature of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) a student is given permission to read the course materiel, and to copy or summarize it into notes for personal use. The instructor should not use any content for which such permission is not available unless it is a quote, clearly indicated as such.

Even if the instructor does use a brief quote, there should be an educational exception to copyright which will apply.

The ideas in the course are not protected by copyright. The student is expected to learn them and use them.

The specific words of the instructor, or of others that the instructor quotes will normally be protected. Except in personal notes, the student should not reuse the exact words except as clearly identified and properly attributed brief quotations. Names, specific technical terms and formal definitions may normally be reused, they are not protected by copyright or have been made available for general use.

Formal definitions are usually facts with no other exact way to express them, and so are not protected.

Rewriting the ideas taught in the course into the student's own words is not copyright infringement, it is allowed and indeed encouraged.

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