As an undergraduate at Sacramento State, Ryan Stevens founded NoteUtopia in order to provide a mechanism for students to buy, sell, and share their university course notes. Stevens graduated last spring and NoteUtopia officially launched in August. But less than six weeks into the startup’s history, NoteUtopia has received a cease-and-desist letter from the California State University system, charging that the company violates a provision of the state education code.
The provision in question dates back a decade and reads “no business, agency, or person, including, but not necessarily limited to, an enrolled student, shall prepare, cause to be prepared, give, sell, transfer, or otherwise distribute or publish, for any commercial purpose, any contemporaneous recording of an academic presentation in a classroom or equivalent site of instruction by an instructor of record. This prohibition applies to a recording made in any medium, including, but not necessarily limited to, handwritten or typewritten class notes.”
Following the cease-and-desist letter, officials also emailed the students at all 23 universities in the Cal State system, warning them that selling their class notes online “including on the NoteUtopia website, is subject to discipline, up through and including expulsion from the university.”