ONTD Political

Anti-Piracy Patent Aims to Stop Students Sharing Textbooks

1:08 pm - 06/11/2012
Professor's patent strangles textbook sharing on and offline

The realm of academic file-sharing is notorious — is it legal to share these notes, and this is alright because we need it for the course but it’s no longer in print, right? Students sharing textbooks, presentations and notes facilitated by Facebook’s new Group feature came to mind — but now, going beyond the realms of copyright infringement, it may go so far as to lower your grades.

A new patent granted this week aims to stop students from sharing textbooks, both off and online. The patent awarded to economics professor Joseph Henry Vogel hopes to embed the publishing world even further into academia. Under his proposal, students can only participate in courses when they buy an online access code which allows them to use the course book. No access code means a lower grade, all in the best interests of science.

For centuries, students have shared textbooks with each other, but a new patent aims to stop this “infringing” habit.

The patent in question was granted to Professor of Economics Joseph Henry Vogel. He believes that piracy, lending and reselling of books is a threat to the publishing industry.

“Professors are increasingly turning a blind eye when students appear in class with photocopied pages. Others facilitate piracy by placing texts in the library reserve where they can be photocopied,” Vogel writes.

The result is less money for publishers, and fewer opportunities for professors like himself to get published. With Vogel’s invention, however, this threat can be stopped.

The idea is simple. As part of a course, students will have to participate in a web-based discussion board, an activity which counts towards their final grade. To gain access to the board students need a special code, which they get by buying the associated textbook.

Students who don’t pay can’t participate in the course and therefore get a lower grade.

The system ensures that students can’t follow courses with pirated textbooks, as tens of thousands are doing today. Lending books from a library or friend, or buying books from older students, isn’t allowed either. At least, not when the copyright holders don’t get their share.

Vogel’s idea leaves the option open for students to use second-hand textbooks, but they still have to buy an access code at a reduced price. This means publishers can charge multiple times for a book that was sold only once.

Needless to say, publishers are excited about gaining more control in the classroom. Anthem Press of London has already expressed interest in the system and Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, also welcomes the idea.

“For every rogue site that is taken down, there are hundreds more demanding similar effort. I can’t think of a more timely example of the need for additional tools,” he says.

On the surface the idea might seem well-intentioned, but to proponents of an open knowledge society it goes completely in the wrong direction. If anything, the Internet should make it easier for students to access knowledge, not harder or impossible.

While it’s understandable that publishers want to stop piracy, preventing poor students from borrowing textbooks from a library or friend goes too far.

Thanks to the Internet, publishers are replaceable. And since many of the textbook authors are professors who get paid by universities, it is not hard to release books in a more open system.

Professor Vogel believes that sending more money to publishers helps academia, which might be a flawed line of reasoning. Isn’t it much better to strive to make knowledge open and accessible, instead of restricting it even further?

Source1: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/igeneration/professors-patent-strangles-textbook-sharing-on-and-offline/16369
Source2: http://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-patent-prevents-students-from-sharing-books-120610/
randomtasks 11th-Jun-2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
Ugh. I 'automatically' failed college algebra because I didn't buy the access code (it was $70 on top of the book being $65, used). Despite the fact the only thing you could do with the access code was to do homework which I thought was kinda pointless since in that class, homework grade only took up 7% of your overall grade. I just did the problems in the book myself and double checked my answers with the answer key in the back and if I got stuck, I would go to the math lab. I always got between 90-100 on my quizzes and tests and my end grade was like 90.2% and the asshole still failed me for not buying the access code.
sesmo 11th-Jun-2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that he couldn't do that and comply with the code of ethics of the university. You should've appealed, that's horrifying.
randomtasks 11th-Jun-2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
I won the appeal but the prof said he automatically failed me because he assumed I was cheating since I passed his class without doing the homework (which made no sense because this prof was not organized so almost all of the tests and quizzes were popup) but I think he was just really pressed that he didn't get his 5% cut of me paying for the access code.
xdawnfirex 11th-Jun-2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
What an absolute douchebag.
_sepia 11th-Jun-2012 08:30 pm (UTC)
I can't - this doesn't even compute for me. I can't see how any professor in good conscience could do that to a student.
oudeteron 11th-Jun-2012 10:15 pm (UTC)
I always got between 90-100 on my quizzes and tests and my end grade was like 90.2% and the asshole still failed me for not buying the access code.

...and there I thought I couldn't get any more disgusted after reading the post. What a gross piece of shit with thoroughly screwed-up priorities.
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