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Education The Courts Your Rights Online

Academic Publishers Ask The Impossible In GSU Copyright Suit 221

Posted by timothy
from the they'd-settle-for-infinity-minus-one dept.
Nidi62 writes "A Duke University blog covers the possible ramifications of a motion in the copyright case against Georgia State University. Cambrigde, Oxford, and Sage have proposed an injunction that would first enjoin GSU to include all faculty, employees, students. All copying would have to be monitored and limited to 10% of a work or 1000 words, whichever is less. No two classes would be allowed to use the same copied work unless they paid for it, essentially taking fair use out of the classroom. Along with this, courses would be allowed to be made up of only 10% copied material, the other 90% must be either purchased works or copies that have been paid for by permission fees. And, if this isn't enough, the publishers also want access to all computer systems on the campus network, to monitor compliance and copying. 'This proposed order, in short, represents a nightmare, a true dystopia, for higher education....Yet you can be sure that if [these] things happen, all of our campuses would be pressured to adopt the "Georgia State model" in order to avoid litigation.' Disclosure: I am currently a graduate student at Georgia State University."
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Academic Publishers Ask The Impossible In GSU Copyright Suit

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  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday May 19, 2011 @08:19AM (#36177482) Journal

    Before Slashdot goes into immediate outrage mode (although, by noting this, I might already be too late) over this, please note one very important thing:

    This is a PROPOSED INJUNCTION BY THE PLAINTIFFS .

    In our adversarial judicial system, plaintiffs will try to ask the court for as much relief as they can get away with. The courts will either accept it, accept part of it or laugh it out of court. However, merely a request for this amount of relief has zero effect on the law whatsoever. If I was injured in a minor car accident with you, I'd be well within my rights to ask the court for a billion dollars in compensation and relief. However, this doesn't mean the court will give it to me, nor does it have any real implications beyond the fact that I might come off sounding like a litigious dick.

  • Re:What is copied? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @08:38AM (#36177684)

    I guess I have a skewed perspective, being that I have really only experienced science classes (or lower division non-science classes). But in almost all of these, there is very little copied material. Things are taught out of a book (or books) that the students are responsible for acquiring access to. While the students may obtain copies on their own, the professor would never disseminate them.

    Are things different in other fields? Are there areas where classes are taught primarily from copied materials? If so, why is this done, instead of just picking a selection of books? Is it that there are no adequate books? If so, then why don't people write them?

    Sorry for all the questions. As I said above, I am pretty ignorant on this topic.

    I'm the submitter, and I'm in the political science graduate program at GSU, so I can only speak for it (and really, only the classes I have taken and anecdotal evidence from others). Often times, our professors would hand out maybe one or 2 chapters of a book in printed form, to keep students from having to pay for the whole book. Other times, they will put them on online course reserves, where you can print out the article or book chapters yourself. Usually this is done in conjunction with using books (that have to be purchased) and articles available for free (to the student) on databases that the University subscribes to. A lot of students will print off these articles as well (which is what I believe is one of the things the publishers are complaining about). Some professors also just provide course packets. Basically, it seems these publishers feel like fair use costs them money, and they want to get rid of it.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @08:55AM (#36177826)

    Often times, our professors would hand out maybe one or 2 chapters of a book in printed form, to keep students from having to pay for the whole book.

    if that is what's considered acceptable practice at GSU, then yes: it sound sound like copyright violations. From my perspective, "fair use" means quoting a soundbite-sized portion - maybe a conclusion or a few sentences that support a proposition. It definitely should NOT cover giving students enough material that they don't have to buy textbooks. I do think the monitoring proposals sound a little extreme, but if large-scale copying is rampant at that university, then something needs to be done to stop it - and to ensure it IS stopped.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 19, 2011 @10:25AM (#36178736)

    Establish a new publishing house, for and by Universities

    Did you notice that the OXFORD and CAMBRIDGE publishing houses are involved in this suit? How do you think they got started?

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday May 19, 2011 @10:54AM (#36179092) Homepage

    It has amazed me how long the current academic publishing regime has lasted. This dystopian fantasy by the publishers is the logical extension of a broken business model, where the publishers provide essentially zero value yet charge enormous fees. GA Tech should use this moment as a clean break point, and demand that all campus materials be either in the public domain or be available under Creative Commons license. Award tenure based only on publications which are under CC license.

    Spiritually I'm in sympathy with you, but:

    You're assuming that free course materials don't already exist, and that profs need to be coerced by schools into writing them. That's not the case -- see my sig for a few hundred examples.

    You're lumping together textbooks and research. Those are completely different beasts. Your argument that publishers provide "essentially zero value" is fairly valid for research papers, but not really valid for most textbooks. If you look at the free textbooks catalogued at the site linked to in my sig, most of them are clearly not as fancy as commercial textbooks from the big publishers. Some of that fanciness is useless frippery, like colored section headers, but a lot of it really is significant. I've written several CC-licensed physics textbooks, and it's been a huge amount of work to try to make them look semi-professional without a commercial publishing house's resources to help me. In the case of research papers, nearly all academics in my field (physics) make their papers available on arxiv.org. They also publish them in non-free journals, because that's how you get tenure. In other fields, there are free journals such as PLOS.

    Universities need to remember that they are the folks that generate *all* the content that publishers want to use against them. They can stop giving it away to these guys any time they like.

    This is true in the case of research papers, not true in the case of textbooks. Universities don't write textbooks, professors write textbooks, and professors don't give them away for free to commercial publishers.

    In this era of global networking, there is essentially no added value in distribution, warehousing, and organizing papers into journals. Publishers need to be reminded of this fact.

    But this would only apply to research papers. What fraction of the material in course packs in a university bookstore is research papers? I would guess only a small percentage. When it comes to other kinds of academic writing besides research papers, publishers really do contribute a lot more than the things you're talking about.

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