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Are there any policies on taping or recording or even streaming a professor's lecture?

What do professors think about students who do this?

Obviously, most circumstances the professor would never find out, but there was this one instance when a professor got really angry because a student was recording him without his permission.

I don't understand why he would be offended, most likely the student is only using it for review and not commercial purposes as the nature of the class is quite obscure, could anyone shed a light?

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    One time while doing a review TA session before the final exam, suddenly a bunch of students took recording devices and smartphones and put it in front of me. I was surprised and told them that I do not agree that this session will be recorded. Makes me wonder how many times I've been recorded without my knowledge... – Gimelist Oct 28 '14 at 8:50
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    I#d like to add that this is also a privacy issue. I would always be angry if someone is filming me without my permission, it doesn't matter if it is in a classroom or anywhere else. If you record someone, ask them! I wouldn't want my face all over the internet on some strange youtube video, even if I would give a brilliant lecture. – Reinstate Monica - dirkk Oct 28 '14 at 10:02
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    In the US, depending on state, recording someone without his or her permission runs afoul of wiretapping laws. – Hao Ye Oct 28 '14 at 19:01
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    To perhaps clarify by way of ad-absurdum/addendum: under the worldview many of the comments and answers are espousing here, it should be illegal to record a police officer without first asking their permission, because they might be offended. You have the right, at least in the U.S., to record the things that happen in public as long as you aren't running afoul of circumstances under which the recorded party has a reasonable expectation of privacy (i.e., private conversations, or the underside of their skirt) – abathur Oct 29 '14 at 2:34
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    @abathur You have missed the key point: the other students have an expectation of privacy. Their consent is key. For some students, removing the "safe space" to make mistakes will inhibit them and damage their education. – Ian Oct 29 '14 at 13:24

13 Answers 13

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I do not believe it had anything to do with the act of being recorded by itself. Most universities are beginning a process of recording lectures for later consumption by the students anyway.

Instead in this case it is likely because the professor was unaware they were being recorded. They may do or say something that they regret or which gets them into trouble. If however they knew beforehand that they were being recorded it would be unlikely that they would do that since they know the repercussions would be more severe. I think it was an instinctive reaction to protect themselves from others using the recording against them.

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    I agree. For example, the teacher might say something meant as a joke but will appear as highly offensive if not seen in the intended context. – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 28 '14 at 6:14
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    In my opinion, "intended as a joke" is the #1 lame excuse when someone's caught saying something genuinely offensive or discriminatory. Saying things that would get you into trouble if they were recorded and relying on "what happens in class stays in class" is NOT a good policy! – Bristol Oct 28 '14 at 9:03
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    @Bristol I can say highly offensive things to be funny that I don't actually believe at all. Often it is a lame excuse but it can happen and you're probably best not to say those sorts of things in a classroom environment. – Stephen Tierney Oct 28 '14 at 11:56
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    @Bristol What about a lapsus? You may just change a single word in a sentence by mistake and an harmless statement could become a really harmful sentence. In class you can realize that and correct it, but if a student wants to give you troubles he can simply cut the recording and distribute that stating that you said that really with that intention. The point is: a recording can be manipulated, even by simply cutting & pasting in the right places. – Bakuriu Oct 28 '14 at 18:41
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    In many countries and US states, it is illegal to create an audio recording of a person without their permission or knowledge. Awareness and consent are key. – Benjamin Mako Hill Oct 28 '14 at 20:02
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I can think of some reasons why a teacher would get angry when a student videotapes the lecture without his or her permission:

  • Doesn't want a public, permanent record of his/her errors
  • Believes that his/her lecture is his/her intellectual property and considers the videotaping without consent as a form of theft
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    Actually, a lecture is the IP of the lecturer. – Greg Oct 29 '14 at 1:50
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    @Greg: Not necessarily. My university owns the copyright to my in-class lectures, as performances, under the rubric of "work for hire". I am explicitly forbidden to post videos of my own lectures on YouTube. On the other hand, I own the copyright to anything that I write. – JeffE Oct 29 '14 at 2:47
  • @JeffE You are right, it is case by case (country by country), but the point is, it is generally not public domain and cannot be assumed that it is. – Greg Oct 29 '14 at 2:52
  • @JeffE To complicate things, though the university may own the content of the lecture, the video itself will usually be the IP of the student who filmed it. – Vality Oct 29 '14 at 4:52
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    Just because they want it to be true does not mean anything. — Pot, kettle, black. Lectures do have a significant amount of creative content. My employer pays me specifically to create that content. Therefore, by current US copyright law, my employer owns the copyright to that content. – JeffE Nov 15 '14 at 14:45
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Leaving aside the points already made (that it's exceptionally rude to do so without consent, etc.), I'll just (approximately) state the policy of my institution: anyone speaking or otherwise appearing on a recording made on university property has copyright to their "performance" in that recording. Thus if a lecture or seminar is being recorded, before it can be re-broadcast, every voice and face that appears must explicitly consent.

The usual context is the lecturer recording must either get an explicit release from every student or edit out the appearance of any student from the recording. However, the converse also holds: if a student records the lecture, they need to get the consent of the lecturer (and also all students that might appear on the recording).

There are no cases where I would worry about a student recording me. There are plenty of cases where I would worry that a student recording a session would inhibit or discourage the participation of other students. This is especially true if the other students found out about the recording without having been told in advance and explicitly asked if they're happy about it.

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    There are plenty of cases where I would worry that a student recording a session would inhibit or discourage the participation of other students. Bingo. – Jonathan Landrum Oct 28 '14 at 19:22
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    To further this answer, my school required all teachers to include this in their syllabi: "Statement on Classroom Recording To ensure the free and open discussion of ideas, students may not record classroom lectures, discussion and/or activities without the advance written permission of the instructor, and any such recording properly approved in advance can be used solely for the student’s own private use.", so yes, some schools definitely see there being an issue with free discussion – Mitch Oct 29 '14 at 13:25
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Some people might have a protected identity. Publicly making pictures and movies without consent can endanger lives.

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    I agree with you. However, a person who does not want his or her identity made public would probably not teach in public. – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 28 '14 at 7:39
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    When recording a lecture or seminar, it is not just the teacher who appears: it could be other students. By recording it you remove their ability to participate. – Ian Oct 28 '14 at 7:53
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    @JoelReyesNoche Giving a lecture in a university, which only students of the university may attend would, I believe, be considered a private situation, not a public one. – David Richerby Oct 28 '14 at 13:31
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    @JoelReyesNoche: There's a bit of a difference between being visible to a hundred students and being seen by the entire internet. If you're hiding from a specific abuser or criminal, the lecturing is completely safe. Having your face and location broadcast is definitely not. – Tynam Oct 31 '14 at 9:57
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    Cdaragorn: I disagree. There are children, for example, that go to school, that are under protection, and they are of course not responsible. It is common courtesy to ask for permission before videotaping at a non-public location. – Per Alexandersson Nov 14 '14 at 16:58
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Speaking as a professor, given the capabilities of today's gadgets I'd say get used to it. I teach programming, and note-taking has recently turned into the entire class raising their phones and taking a picture of the screen. I step out of the way so they all get a clear view. Given the topic I really can't object - it's a technology-based course and as with all programming it's very precise - one missing comma produces a lot of frustration.

If I speak as a student, I would also say to the professor get used to it. I paid (a lot) for the lecture, I will have a copy I can refer to later. It's not like hiding the camera is at all difficult. The more noise made about it, the more likely it will end up on YouTube. Any in-class rants on the topic will definitely make prime time.

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    Some students have legitimate reasons not to want to be recorded, especially if that recording will be made publicly available. I have taught students who were being stalked by abusive ex-spouses or abusive parents. FERPA requires my university to protect those student's identities, which includes strict policies about recording them. – JeffE Oct 29 '14 at 19:30
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    @JeffE My professor's voice says "fine, but not really my problem. I will announce 'no video, please' at start of term". My inner-student's voice says "sit in the back row and keep to yourself". My other voices are recommending things like different fashion or online learning. – peter Oct 30 '14 at 2:24
  • Your answer doesn't actually address the question - you talk about what students want and will do, but querent knew that. You don't actually discuss the question topic of when and why the lecturer might be offended. (Also: so, your inner voices think students overcoming abuse shouldn't ever be able to sit at the front, or wear what they want, or even attend university in person instead of online? Way to support the victims, there.) – Tynam Oct 31 '14 at 9:56
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    @peter: I'm genuinely horrified by this comment. You've decided that it's acceptable for someone else to have to spend their entire lives crouching in a corner pretending not to exist, for fear of being ratted out to their abuser by you - rather than admit it might by a good idea for you not to do that. You do know that "actively participating in debate" is actually very important to education, right? – Tynam Nov 1 '14 at 7:34
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    More importantly: "Get used to it" is not an answer to the question "why would the professor feel this way?", since it tells us nothing about the professor's feelings. "Get used to it" is not an answer to "what policies exist?", since it doesn't mention any policies. You have not even attempted to answer the question; your answer is you asserting a personal opinion on what you would do. (This is getting over-commented so I'm ending discussion here; I'll meet you in chat if you want to continue.) – Tynam Nov 1 '14 at 7:39
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I've been on both sides of this issue. I've been in classes where recording was encouraged and also seen syllabuses where it was expressly disallowed. The justification for the disallowing was 'intellectual property' and the distractions that recording setups might create.

As a professor I've never had an issue with it. But I liked being asked instead of being surprised. I am not camera shy but I don't like the idea I have to 'perform' well on camera. Sort of adds a layer of anxiety to the teaching experience.

Good point above on the re-broadcasting issue. I'd hate for some bonehead mistake to end up on Youtube and ruin my career. And I don't like the idea that people could take turns going to class and share the videos instead. That's why I do daily quizzes without makeup opportunities.

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I am surprised this hasn't been mentioned before, but (at least in Germany) this is first and foremost a personal rights issue. Recording someone without his knowledge and explicit consensus is a violation of their rights and people react very strongly because it is a sensitive topic. Finding out in retrospect that you were recorded doing something, of questionable nature or not, is rarely something people rejoice over. (If you've ever been to an alcohol-heavy college party, you probably know.) Generally, people like to be in control over what is documented about them.

Most lecturers I've had over the (ongoing) course of my bachelor studies made it clear that they were ok with e.g. photos of the blackboard but not with video or sound recordings. But without such clear regulations, basic decency dictates to ask.

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In my mind, i think there are different aspects.

The purpose of the recording is one of the main aspects => for personal use only, for the students of this university, for public publishing, etc

The context of the event recorded is another important aspect. If it's a public meeting, it may be difficult to any party to restrict the recording. If it's private, it's another story, even if the lecturer is a public personality i think. In some context, you only can be present because you implicitly agreed on some specific rules linked to the event. If it's secret, it's another another story, ... etc

In a university course for example, do not forget that what your record is owned by the university.

This is not exactly public stuff, so you really should tell and ask the professor if he does agree to be recorded, and also, who will use the record later. The same should be done for everyone present that could be identified on the record.

I think that everything but "personal use only" may even need any kind of written agreement between all the parties (the recorder, the professor, the university, and even the students that could be identified on the record). This agreement may contain some conditions, like "you can publish it only if you hide the face of the professor, or of a students, ... " Some party may also want to keep the possibility to forbid the use of the record afterward.

Anyway, i suppose that if all the parties don't mind, it eventually can stay only a verbal agreement assuming that every party is a witness for the others. But that's pure speculation from my part.

To answer the original question, the reasons for the refusal of one party (not just the lecturer), may be VERY variate (rational or not), and even if it may be frustrating or sounds like an injustice, i am not sure the party even has to tell you why if he don't want. It is his right to refuse and you have to respect his right.

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In this particular case, I would think the professor didn't feel respected and therefore became angry. He didn't even get the chance to acknowledge what the student is doing, and also the student didn't give himself the chance to quickly explain why he is recording him.

I think a small dialogue before the class would have easily clarified this and even could have had a positive impact on the professor's reaction.

Imagine yourself being taped by the professor during a in-course presentation without being told. If he just said "Hey, I'm recording you for feedback purposes" or whatever, it would be a whole nother deal.

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At least in the UK it is likely to be illegal to stop a disabled student that is unable to take notes from recording a lecture.

  • "likely to be illegal" I would really appreciate a reference for that claim. (Not that I think you're wrong, but I am honestly interested in this topic and reasoning for such a regulation. It's a delicate topic and both sides have striking arguments.) – Janis F Oct 30 '14 at 18:56
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    @Romiox, csie.org.uk/inclusion/education-disability.shtml gives a overview. Given that most professor allow recording, I can't see how a university could show that it is not a reasonable adaption to allow a disabled student to record a lecture. – Ian Oct 30 '14 at 22:57
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I have "solved" this by recording my lectures myself and making the recordings available to students. That addresses the requirement of U.S. law that a performance "fixed in a tangible medium" and so protects my own copyright in the lecture. Students are put on notice every class that the session is being recorded. They're told at the beginning of the term that I am being recorded and they may be recorded. So far, no one has complained.

http://bbrown.kennesaw.edu/papers/podcasting/podcasting_protects_ip.html

  • Following up on a comment made earlier, I stop recording before taking individual questions after class. For questions during class, the questioner is usually a disembodied voice, often unintelligible, so much so that I always repeat the question for the recording. – Bob Brown Nov 2 '14 at 15:12
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A colleague was recorded giving a single lecture at another institution without her permission- the reason given was "we can't afford you next year" - on that occasion she insisted that the recording be destroyed. A student recording a lecture isn't participating fully, much like the person recording a concert, the student is blocked from the experience by the device and action. I put all essential material online for review after a lecture has happened, as I insist on student participation, in the form of discussion / Q&A / replies to direct issues, any record would also record the students- who have not consented formally to being recorded? Finally, this is just plainly rude! Why not ask permission? A lecture is not a rehearsed performance, it will contain fumbles, digressions, new perceptions. You have not bought an experience, you are supposed to be a participant. Put the phone back in your pocket and join in.

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There are likely policies on taping or recording lectures, but as with many policies, they will likely vary by institution.

More importantly than that, if you're going to tape or record someone, it's polite to ask their permission first, and if they refuse, to accept that. Even if there's no policy/legal basis for it, nor do they actually need to justify themselves.

Beyond that, the professor may legitimately have concerns beyond just whether or not you intend to sell the recording. Knowing there is a recorder in the room changes how people act. A professor might wish, for example, to have fostered an environment where people are free to make intellectual leaps, push the bounds of their knowledge, make mistakes while discussing a problem etc. in a relatively consequence free environment.

Having a recorder in the room now makes those mistakes permanently recorded, and if you're streaming, it makes it publicly broadcast. It's not unreasonable to presume that will have a dampening impact on those "This might be wrong but..." questions, and the professor may wish to prioritize those over your note-taking convenience.

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