Similar questions (privacy/ethical point of view,generic legal point of view) have been asked before but I am looking an answer from a legal standpoint specific to the state of New York.

I am a Masters Student and one of those who find it very difficult to concentrate in the class. During my last semester, I started using recorded(by the University) lectures for exam preparation and found this way to be way more effective (in terms of marks obtained in exams) and time efficient as compared to actually attending the lecture. During this semester, I am enrolled in a subject where lectures are not recorded. I specifically want to do well in this subject and therefore want to have audio recordings of the lecture. But I am afraid that if I seek the Professor's permission, my gut feeling says that I might not get it(I don't want to dot down my reasons here as I want the discussion to be focused) and of course lose my chance to record lectures in the future. This is a public university in the State of New York.

Can anyone tell me if I were to record his lecture without seeking his permission, will I be breaking the law?

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking about the law rather than about academia. Feb 2 '17 at 2:09
  • I believe this is off-topic here, as this pertains strictly to the legality of this action, which can only be accurate to this specific state, and further may vary by additional contract as part of your student agreement. It seems like you would be best advised to speak with a lawyer, and your University may even have an attorney they work with that can give you low cost/free legal advice. Otherwise this may be a pretty simple consultation with a local lawyer, which itself might even be free, or at least low cost.
    – BrianH
    Feb 2 '17 at 2:10
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    This site is not open for legal questions. In some universities, having a disability accepted by the disability office will explicitly permit you to get a recording of the lecture. However, in any other case, it will be - if not matter of law - then matter of elementary courtesy to ask for permission. And yes, if it is not granted and there is no official university-wide arrangement for recordings, you should not be recording the lecture. Feb 2 '17 at 2:10

It appears that New York City allows you to record it as long as you are in the lecture. However, it does come down to school policy as the website pointed out: "Tape recording shall be permitted for individual private study only at the discretion of the instructor." It would be best to check ahead of time with your professor. I see no issue with it, especially if it's meant to help with your studies.

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    The link you provide suggests the opposite of your description (it says you are "probably OK" to record in single-party consent states, which itself isn't very reassuring when applicable to a possible felony), which is...well, confusing, at best.
    – BrianH
    Feb 2 '17 at 4:09
  • @BrianDHall You are correct. I did more research and edited my answer.
    – Michael
    Feb 2 '17 at 12:45

Two issues:

Professors own a copyright on their teaching materials, including lectures and powerpoints. Technically, copying the material without permission would be a violation. It's unlikely you'd be charged and even less likely that you'd lose, but it's an issue for the second...

Which is that your conduct may be a violation of your campus code of conduct. If your professor does not allow you to record his/her lectures and you do it anyway, then you would be in violation.

tl;dr: Don't do it. The legal issues are less important that the possibility that you could found to have a code of conduct violation and separated temporarily or permanently from the university.

  • I'm not sure if copyright actually applies to recordings made for private use. Some evidence for this may improve the answer. Feb 2 '17 at 7:43
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    Oh, so I can copy Photoshop if it's just for my private use? Cool.
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 2 '17 at 7:57
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    No, but Photoshop is a bad analogy, since there's no recording process involved. A more suitable analogy would be making notes during the lecture. If I can write down notes so fast that I can capture the complete lecture (stenography), this would be a copyright violation as well, then. Feb 2 '17 at 8:08

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