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Education Books News

Major Textbook Publishers Sue Open-Education Textbook Start-Up 278

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-with-our-books dept.
linjaaho writes "Three major textbook publishers have sued a startup company making free and open textbooks, citing 'copyright infringement,' as the company is making similar textbooks using open material. From the article: 'The publishers' complaint takes issue with the way the upstart produces its open-education textbooks, which Boundless bills as free substitutes for expensive printed material. To gain access to the digital alternatives, students select the traditional books assigned in their classes, and Boundless pulls content from an array of open-education sources to knit together a text that the company claims is as good as the designated book. The company calls this mapping of printed book to open material "alignment" — a tactic the complaint said creates a finished product that violates the publishers' copyrights.'"
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Major Textbook Publishers Sue Open-Education Textbook Start-Up

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:48AM (#39619409)

    Since you can't copyright facts and figures only their presentation and form, as long as the arrangement, structure and alignment is different, they don't have a leg to stand on.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:53AM (#39619455)

      An analysis of facts and figures can also be copyrighted, and many textbooks (particularly liberal arts) contain as much analysis as anything else.

      • by jbengt (874751)
        Only the creative form of the analyses are copywritable. The facts and figures of the analyses are not. IANAL, YMMV, etc.
    • by Steve Furlong (9087) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:57AM (#39619495) Homepage

      they don't have a leg to stand on.

      You're applying common sense, not a wise practice when it comes to law. Especially not when it comes to "law" as practiced in the modern US. If a bunch of publishers get together and lobby aggressively I wouldn't be surprised if a court found that a sufficient degree of similarity existed, thereby violating copyright. And if the court didn't find it, well, Congress can amend the copyright law and I think the US Copyright Office can regulate matters a bit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Considering that the open sources which contain the documentation / resources used are already out there in the wild, and no-one is suing them, then it is only the arrangement or total content aggregate that they could be suing for, since the content cannot be refuted or sued for copyright infringement, and as long as the arrangement doesn't impinge, then the fact that the content accumulated covers the same sets of topics but in the words of those already published as open content, there is no legal leg to

    • by similar_name (1164087) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:00PM (#39619527)
      It doesn't matter. They don't need to win, they only need to drain resources from Boundless and scare off investors.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:16PM (#39619699)

        I think it's time to end all this BS.

        Just create an official "license to kill competition". It shall allow to just call a judge and cry "WHaaaa Mr. Judge! They are making me lose money! WHaaa" And the judge will just send the police.

        Just make the license expensive enough. And then find a way of dealing with the thousands of jobless lawyers.

        • by Carewolf (581105)

          Awesome, while obviously not the first choice I would make. This solution is definitely more efficient than the current legislation that is trying to achieve the very same thing!

          Simplicity and transparency. I fully support this (if we can't get an optimal solution)..

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:00PM (#39619531)
      Not necessarily, depending on implementation it could also be considered derivative work from the table of contents or structure of the original text. Remember that even paraphrasing can be copyright violation (although not always). If I take a paragraph of someone's work, reword it, and pass it off as my own (or as a public domain work), that is infringement. Also remember that style, and other artistic considerations can also be protected work. The key to this case will be in the method of "alignment."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nadaka (224565)

        rewording a paragraph and passing it off as your own is plagiarism, not copyright infringement. Two entirely different things.

        • by gnapster (1401889)
          It is plagiarism only if you don't cite your source. That doesn't mean it is not also reckoned to be copyright infringement.
      • by MojoRilla (591502) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:36PM (#39619949)
        Taking a paragraph of someone's work and rewording it may not be infringement. See the Wikipedia article on close paraphrasing [wikipedia.org] for exceptions. Close paraphrasing of copyrighted text is not allowed when it is substantial, but is also allowed when there are limited ways to say the same thing.
    • by firex726 (1188453)

      Yea, is the start-up actually using any of the text from the established publishers?
      If not then I don't see how they can claim copyright.

      • Yea, is the start-up actually using any of the text from the established publishers?

        According to the article, the start-up is accused of non-literal copying. The plaintiff's textbook illustrates thermodynamics with a non-free photo of a bear running and a non-free photo of a bear catching a fish. The allegedly infringing textbook illustrates thermodynamics with a free photo of a bear running and a free photo of a bear catching a fish. The claim is that apart from the copyright in the particular photographs, the choice of a bear to illustrate the laws of thermodynamics is itself sufficiently original.

        • The claim is that apart from the copyright in the particular photographs, the choice of a bear to illustrate the laws of thermodynamics is itself sufficiently original.

          Honestly, that does sound like the (big, evil, monstrous, yadda, yadda, yadda) textbook publisher may have a point. There are some concepts in physics that are always illustrated in (nearly) the same way, with (nearly) identical examples. You can't talk about Maxwell's demon without a demon. Schrodinger will always have his half-dead cat. Every first-year dynamics textbook will have a race car travelling a banked, circular track riding on tires with a certain coefficient of friction.

          On the other hand, I've spent a couple of decades studying and working in physics-related fields, and I've yet to come across a famous or canonical bear-catching-a-fish story in any branch of physics, let alone thermodynamics. The choice of a novel illustrative example certainly seems like a genuinely creative act on the part of the textbook's authors, and could form the basis of a legitimate complaint.

    • Ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:26PM (#39619835) Journal

      as long as the arrangement, structure and alignment is different

      They seem to be claiming that the structure is copied though i.e. you select one of their texts and the site collects "open source" information which covers the same material in a similar fashion. What is so ironic about this is that, at least where 1st year physics text books are concerned, the publisher's text books have almost exactly identical structures - sometimes even down to the level of chapter and section numbers. So, since I am certain that these publishers would never do what they seem to be accusing this company of doing, I can only presume that they must all pay a licensing fee for use of this format.

    • by jd2112 (1535857)

      Since you can't copyright facts and figures only their presentation and form, as long as the arrangement, structure and alignment is different, they don't have a leg to stand on.

      Facts schmacts we have lawyers and a huge legal budget. - textbook publishers

    • by pegr (46683)

      More specifically, you cannot be guilty of copyright infringement without having copied anything.

      • by jythie (914043)
        Which will be what the case has to dig into.... does what they copied 'count' as something?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hackus (159037)

      I would agree.

      But you see, the USA has become a fascist state. Fascism is law.

      It has nothing to to do with Facts or Figures or a leg to stand on.

      This now depends on what is in the Judges best interest for this case to either pass, or shut the company down.

      Funny, but I posted many many times over the many years (1998) that fascism was coming to this country and that it would eventually lead to laws that prevent anyone from learning anything without a license.

      We have come a long way and facism has now offici

  • by ryzvonusef (1151717) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:53AM (#39619451) Journal

    From the Article:

    To illustrate this claim of intellectual theft, the publishers’ complaint points to the Boundless versions of several textbooks, including Biology, a textbook authored by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece. The Boundless alternative, the complaint alleges, is guilty of copying the printed material’s layout and engaging in what the complaint calls “photographic paraphrasing.” In one chapter of the printed book, for instance, the editors chose to illustrate the first and second laws of thermodynamics using pictures of a bear running and a bear catching a fish in its mouth. Boundless’s substitute text uses similar pictures to illustrate the same concepts—albeit Creative Commons-licensed images hosted on Wikipedia that include links to the source material, in accordance with the terms of the open license. (The end of each Boundless section also includes links to the text’s source material, which often includes Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Earth, and other Web sites.)

    The complaint goes on to allege that Boundless’s choice of bear photographs in that chapter reflects “only the previously made creative, scholarly, and aesthetic judgments of the authors and editors of Campbell’s Biology.”

    (Bolded by me)

    So... is that wrong? I don't get it. If it's Creative Commons, doesn't that allow this sort of thing, by definition?

    • by Marc_Hawke (130338) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:08PM (#39619597)

      How similar were those pictures? I would have never thought to use a 'bear with a fish' to do thermal dynamics. That seems to be a 'non-obvious' solution. Someone else using that example would definitely be copying, even if they didn't use the exact same bear picture.

      But how is the rest of the alignment done? Is is a manual process where and editor goes through and maps ever textbook they get a hold of? It is an automatic process based on the Table of Contents? (or index?)

      It seems to me there are two important parts of making a text-book that would deserve copyright protection:

      1. The narrative text/examples.
      2. The 'flow'. The order by which the author chose to present the facts and lead you through the understanding.

      Those are the two creative parts of the textbook. Those are what differentiate it from another 'book of facts.'

      As much as I hate textbook cartels, I'd have to say that this 'alignment' process definitely has the potential to encroach on the actually creative side of textbook design, so I'd say the lawsuit has some merit. Of course, I haven't studied an 'aligned' book or the book from which it was derived. Heck, I didn't even RTFA.

      • by vlm (69642)

        But how is the rest of the alignment done? Is is a manual process where and editor goes through and maps ever textbook they get a hold of? It is an automatic process based on the Table of Contents? (or index?)

        It seems to me there are two important parts of making a text-book that would deserve copyright protection:

        1. The narrative text/examples.
        2. The 'flow'. The order by which the author chose to present the facts and lead you through the understanding.

        Those are the two creative parts of the textbook. Those are what differentiate it from another 'book of facts.'

        As much as I hate textbook cartels, I'd have to say that this 'alignment' process definitely has the potential to encroach on the actually creative side of textbook design, so I'd say the lawsuit has some merit. Of course, I haven't studied an 'aligned' book or the book from which it was derived. Heck, I didn't even RTFA.

        I think you are trying to define the word "curriculum".

        For example, my kids district enforces that the teachers teach to the "connected mathematics" curriculum as seen in this wiki article. It is possible your local district also uses connected math, or perhaps it one of the numerous competitors. Personally I grew up in the IMP era across town in the same school district, but was able to self teach to a reasonably high level, so it turned out OK anyway.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connected_Mathematics [wikipedia.org]

        To

      • by Endo13 (1000782) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:59PM (#39620257)

        Except now you're trying to copyright an idea.

        Seems to me, there's a fairly obvious reason why ideas were excluded from copyright. Once you start, where do you stop? So a bear catching a fish is "too similar"? What if it's a different color bear, catching a different kind of fish? What if it's a different kind of animal that looks like a bear, but isn't really? Or what if it's a bear catching something that looks like a fish, but isn't? One could also argue that *any* animal catching *any* fish or anything similar is "non-obvious" and therefore too similar.

        But above all, the authors of the textbooks knew what kind of risks there are before they ever started. They knew you can't copyright facts or ideas. If you're merely organizing and explaining certain facts, you shouldn't be too surprised if someone else attempts to do the same thing in a slightly different (although similar) manner.

        This isn't really about copyright infringement at all. It's about an industry that is rapidly becoming obsolete, and the greedy fat cats trying to keep it going to keep getting fatter off it.

        • by eth1 (94901) on Monday April 09, 2012 @01:49PM (#39620827)

          This isn't really about copyright infringement at all. It's about an industry that is rapidly becoming obsolete, and the greedy fat cats trying to keep it going to keep getting fatter off it.

          I'm also willing to bet that the textbook cartel has had their sharks circling this company for a while looking for any standing whatsoever to sue over. This is probably just the first vaguely plausible thing they've come up with.

    • by perpenso (1613749)

      From the Article:

      To illustrate this claim of intellectual theft, the publishers’ complaint points to the Boundless versions of several textbooks, including Biology, a textbook authored by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece. The Boundless alternative, the complaint alleges, is guilty of copying the printed material’s layout and engaging in what the complaint calls “photographic paraphrasing.” In one chapter of the printed book, for instance, the editors chose to illustrate the first and second laws of thermodynamics using pictures of a bear running and a bear catching a fish in its mouth. Boundless’s substitute text uses similar pictures to illustrate the same concepts—albeit Creative Commons-licensed images hosted on Wikipedia that include links to the source material, in accordance with the terms of the open license. (The end of each Boundless section also includes links to the text’s source material, which often includes Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia of Earth, and other Web sites.)

      The complaint goes on to allege that Boundless’s choice of bear photographs in that chapter reflects “only the previously made creative, scholarly, and aesthetic judgments of the authors and editors of Campbell’s Biology.”

      (Bolded by me)

      So... is that wrong? I don't get it. If it's Creative Commons, doesn't that allow this sort of thing, by definition?

      IANAL but my understanding is that its not the bears in isolation, it the bears in the larger context. Its the overall look-and-feel of the page. Look-and-feel, perhaps not in this context though, has been successfully used in copyright/patent suits. Also I would guess that the use of bears strongly indicates that the look-and-feel being similar was not a coincidence, that it was intentional. Keep in mind that civil courts use a threshold of guilt far lower than criminal course where you have "innocent beyo

    • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:09PM (#39619621) Homepage

      From the Article:

      So... is that wrong? I don't get it. If it's Creative Commons, doesn't that allow this sort of thing, by definition?

      Well, yes, wikipedia certainly does allow that sort of thing. But the publishers of the textbooks that are sueing certainly don't.

      Their claim is not that the picture itself is being infringed (and if it was, it would be for wikipedia to pursue the claim, but of course wikipedia permits that) but that the mere idea that a bear running illustrates the first law of thermodynamics is copyrightable and that's what is being infringed upon. An artistic choice was made by the author -- a running bear shows the first law of thermodynamics (I certainly don't see it, but whatever) and they think this is copyrightable.

      As I see it, it's a weak case, but not so frivilous that it should just be thrown out without going to court. They're probably hoping that Boundless can't even defend themselves against this weak suit.

      • Their claim is not that the picture itself is being infringed (and if it was, it would be for wikipedia to pursue the claim, but of course wikipedia permits that) but that the mere idea that a bear running illustrates the first law of thermodynamics is copyrightable and that's what is being infringed upon.

        And that's where it falls down, as the fact that ideas are not copyrightable, but only the representations of those ideas, is one of the basic principles of copyright law.

        • by honkycat (249849)

          It's not ownership of the facts that they're claiming, it's the organization of the facts that they present in the text.

    • You misunderstand - the license of the content Boundless use is not at issue here, its the (for want of a better way of putting it) creation of a "derivative work" of a third parties textbook by using that content in the exact same manner as the third party does in its text.

      Boundless are doing it on demand, and using the third party text as a reference for creating their own version - that is what the third party is taking issue with.

    • Their point is that the arrangement of items that are public domain or otherwise free can still be protected by copyright. However, this is a very narrow protection. If Boundless is using their textbook to create a 'free' clone, it's quite possible that they're crossing the line of infringement. This is very much a gray area of copyright.

    • by Oswald (235719)

      Seems like an honest question; I'll take a shot, giving my own interpretation of TFA:

      In essence, the plaintiffs are saying that, due to the aforementioned creative, scholarly, and aesthetic judgments, their textbooks present a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Boundless is, in their view, reproducing (perhaps I should say "echoing") not just the freely available parts, but the copyrighted arrangement that represents (they claim) a significant part of the value of the books. Ergo, lawsuit.

    • So... is that wrong? I don't get it.

      My view is that that is wrong. My take on it is this:

      I'd read it as the publishers arguing that copyright protection covers more than the final words on the page — that, in terms of the overall expenditure of effort / cost in writing a text book, the "original" author puts effort into research, thinking and structure / layout, and that the cost of doing this should mean that someone should be prohibited from taking a fully-research and structured book, and replacing the paragraphs and images with o

    • To begin with, I needed basic kinematic data on African and European bear species.

    • The publishers are trying to claim they can copyright an idea. Unless the judge is bought and paid for twice over, that'll get thrown out of the court so hard it'll bounce twice.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:53AM (#39619457) Journal

    It's bad enough that profs happily write textbooks and have a partner do a quid pro quo arrangement (each prof in a pair requires the other's pricey textbook in a given class to get around the rules forbidding you to require your own). It's worse that textbooks "change" from year-to-year (often with no substantial content changes at all) in order to keep a revenue stream coming in. It's worse still the practices used to hamper the used textbook markets...

    Now students have to deal with crap like this?

    Glad I left academia years ago. :(

    • by lahvak (69490) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:43PM (#39620039) Homepage Journal

      I have fairly extensive experience with academia, and I have never seen a school that would have a rule prohibiting professors using their own books. I have also never seen professors having an agreement like the one you talk about. When I was an undergraduate student, about half my professors required their own textbooks, that were mostly available at the university store for a nominal price as mimeographed copies.

      As far as publishers coming up with a bogus "new" edition of a textbook every few years, I can assure you that professors hate that practice as much as students do.

  • Translation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by currently_awake (1248758) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:54AM (#39619465)
    From the article: Those "Thieves" just copied our work, reworded stuff so it's not a direct copy, and now give it away! The question is how much do you have to re-word factual content in order to not be copyright infringement. There is a limit to how far they can differ and still cover the same (factual) material.
    • From what I can tell they are using stuff that's already in the public domain. I really don't see how there's a legitimate complaint here. I mean if they are using the layout of copyrighted works, as in paragraph 3 and 8 have the same meaning in both works, maybe, but it doesn't look that way.

    • From the article: Those "Thieves" just copied our work, reworded stuff so it's not a direct copy, and now give it away! The question is how much do you have to re-word factual content in order to not be copyright infringement. There is a limit to how far they can differ and still cover the same (factual) material.

      The party which has brought this suit have described the upstart's product as a paraphrased version of their product. A paraphrase is a sentence-by-sentence rewording. If it is copyright violation to publish an unauthorized translation into another language and publish the translation, surely it is also a copyright violation to publish a paraphrase. But, we don't have enough information to say whether this is really what was done.

      There are ways to produce a replacement text without paraphrasing. For exampl

    • by honkycat (249849)

      It's an interesting question. Clearly, a sentence-by-sentence rephrasing would be a violation. Independently assembling a textbook on the same topics would not be. Here we are somewhere in between, since it appears they're at least duplicating the work at the table of contents level, and perhaps at finer grain than that.

      While I'm as opposed as anyone to the shady crap that's perpetrated by the textbook publishers, I don't think the guys they're suing are behaving entirely ethically here either. It doesn't p

  • I thought educational use was exempt from copyright restrictions.

    • One mistake of not using the correct citation in a paper that one you and your professor will read, you are kicked out of college in disgrace, for being the lowest form of life "a plagiarizer". You could murder someone but be able to finish you schooling. But if you didn't site your sources correctly you are banished from academia for ever!
    • by perpenso (1613749)

      I thought educational use was exempt from copyright restrictions.

      I think such exemptions are with respect to brief excerpts.

    • by dougmc (70836)

      I thought educational use was exempt from copyright restrictions.

      You thought wrong.

      Educational uses are certainly one of the things that often falls under fair use [nolo.com] but there's limits. For example, a teacher can probably legally copy an article to discuss it in class, but you can't photocopy an entire book legally.

      If the use is educational, that can make the case for the use being fair use stronger -- but it's only part of the equation.

    • I thought educational use was exempt from copyright restrictions.

      You are thinking of the concept of fair use. Such uses are called fair because they do not unreasonably encroach on the right of the author to exploit his work commercially. The principle of fair uses recognizes that we sometimes have to make copies in order to study the work, comment on it, and show it to others. But, this principle does not permit us to try to take over the function of the publisher. Copying entire textbooks and distributing them to students (who will be studying the subjects expounded in

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Monday April 09, 2012 @11:59AM (#39619511)

    ... pulls content from an array of open-education sources to knit together a text that the company claims is as good as the designated book ...

    A noble intention but I am suspicious of "as good as". Pulling stuff from various sources and slapping it together quickly is not a strategy known for producing "as good as" products. Perhaps a "good enough" product though.

    However is the "knitted together" text better than, or even different from, just googling and reading some of the top sites, reading various topics on wikipedia?

    Also with respect to "as good as" I am *not* counting the missing homework problems against it.

    • However is the "knitted together" text better than, or even different from, just googling and reading some of the top sites, reading various topics on wikipedia?

      The difference is that this upstart publisher claims to do the googling for you and to organize the results. It would be difficult to do it yourself since you would have to first borrow the book from a classmate and create an outline so that you would know which topics will be discussed in class and in what order.

      • However is the "knitted together" text better than, or even different from, just googling and reading some of the top sites, reading various topics on wikipedia?

        The difference is that this upstart publisher claims to do the googling for you and to organize the results. It would be difficult to do it yourself since you would have to first borrow the book from a classmate and create an outline so that you would know which topics will be discussed in class and in what order.

        The camera in a modern cell phone is sufficiently good that you can take an image of the table of content pages. Its trivial to snap a few images in class. Or you can go old-school and get the library's limited loan copy of the book and photocopy the table of contents.

        I did the camera thing. I knew a friend was working on a paper on a particular topic. I was coincidentally reading a book that had a paragraph I thought he might get a good quote/citation from. I took cell phone pictures of the paragraph in

    • They're probably better. Modern U.S. textbooks are terrible.

      Look at modern math books, for example. They're ridiculously large and most the pages are filled exercises. Most of the exercises are painfully easy, then there are some difficult ones, and then a couple of real tough ones. Then other portions are dedicated to stupid little "Did You Know?" boxes that explain something that's pretty irrelevant to the subject at hand. Then you have several diagrams which all do a poor job of explaining the same conce

      • by perpenso (1613749)
        Given that its reported that they are reproducing the look and feel of the US textbook down to the bear photos I'd expect that the possible advantage that you suggest is not present.

        FWIW I get exactly what you are saying regarding modern US textbooks. I have an uncle who studied engineering in the 1950s. I was shocked at how small and thin his books were. Then when I opened them I understood, no fluff, just math and science ... plus an expectation that you were in the brighter half of the freshman class
  • by n4djs (1097963) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:00PM (#39619535)
    how long is it going to be before the state and local governments figure out that commissioning a single book that they own the rights to as a group starts becoming more cost effective? Would it not make sense that there isn't anything particularly new in geometry or algebra that forces the need for a new rewrite of textbooks every 2-3 years? Or to avoid the $100/book charges being made for dead tree editions of textbooks? Would it not make sense to have one definitive book on the subject, and holding the copyright in common for all to use? As the cost continues to rise at rates exceeding inflation on textbook materials, it becomes more and more attractive to own your own curriculum materials so you don't continue to pay for them over and over again. I feel it is just a matter of time before this happens, particularly give the finanical squeeze occuring in state and local governments.
    • by vlm (69642)

      Would it not make sense that there isn't anything particularly new in geometry or algebra that forces the need for a new rewrite of textbooks every 2-3 years?

      Teaching fads rotate on an interval a little longer than the reign of a typical mid-level district administrator, for obvious reasons.

      What sounds easier for a "typical seagull manager"... Select a new set of textbooks, or author/oversee/demand a customized by them new curriculum?

      What sounds less dangerous for a typical risk adverse mid-level district administrator, buy an entire book from a multinational corporation, or personally sign off on a new homemade curriculum? The danger is page 142 paragraph 2 li

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      Because then you'd have people bitching about "SOCIALIZM!" and crap. Of course, the way things are going now, people are bitching about spending too much money on education.

  • citing 'copyright infringement,' as the company is making similar textbooks using open material.

    You're textbook has 1+1=2 in it?
    Ours had it first, so we're going to sue you now.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:03PM (#39619571) Homepage Journal

    I don't know whether this lawsuit will succeed or fail, but many open source and open materials are based on proprietary materials.

    For example, much of Wikipedia is graduate students and college students taking ideas from their textbooks, compiling them and putting them into their own words.

    Linux is based on a commercial operating system, and many of its best software packages are either clones of popular Windows software packages, or enhancements to academic projects (like Apache and Mozilla).

    The two need each other it seems.

    The point of that is that it makes sense for us to keep a profit motive for development of new proprietary materials, and over time, to migrate older knowledge to the realm of free and open learning.

    • As the SCO history has demonstrated, the Linux kernel is not based on a commercial operating system. It is a implementation of a POSIX style operating system with a clean source history. POSIX itself is an open standard. The user space is a mix of many packages some based on POSIX standards (e.g. shell, file utils) others based on common application needs. Many of those are indeed based upon open industry standards. Wikipedia material is not as well vetted IMHO and given the volume of material, there is a
  • Complaint is BS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:08PM (#39619595)

    The companies are complaining not because the textbook is actually copying them (which would be a violation of copyright), but because the free texbooks are copying their ideas. The example TFA gives is that the copyrighted textbook uses a picture of a bear to illustrate the laws of thermodynamics, and the open-source version uses another different but similar picture of a bear (properly licensed under a CC license).

    Basically, the companies are claiming they hold the copyright to the idea of using a bear to illustrate a law of thermodynamics. I call that "bullshit." They don't have a leg to stand on under copyright law, IMO (well, they shouldn't, IANAL so I cannot say for certain). Ideas can, infact, be freely copied: you cannot copyright them, and you never could.

    Now, if they'd patented that idea, it'd still be bullshit, but maybe they'd have had a case legally speaking.

    • The companies are complaining not because the textbook is actually copying them (which would be a violation of copyright), but because the free texbooks are copying their ideas. The example TFA gives is that the copyrighted textbook uses a picture of a bear to illustrate the laws of thermodynamics, and the open-source version uses another different but similar picture of a bear (properly licensed under a CC license).

      Basically, the companies are claiming they hold the copyright to the idea of using a bear to illustrate a law of thermodynamics. I call that "bullshit." They don't have a leg to stand on under copyright law, IMO (well, they shouldn't, IANAL so I cannot say for certain). Ideas can, infact, be freely copied: you cannot copyright them, and you never could.

      Now, if they'd patented that idea, it'd still be bullshit, but maybe they'd have had a case legally speaking.

      No, they're suing because the company used their layout, decisions on what to use to illustrate concepts, et

  • What's funny is that this sort of "alignment" has been taking place for *years* in dead-tree textbooks.

    An example: Back in the 80s I was taking a class in differential equations and was having some trouble. So I went down to the library to see if different textbooks might have different approaches that could help me out. I pulled down four textbooks (different authors) and sat down to read. Turns out EVERY SINGLE ONE of them presented exactly the same concepts in exactly the same order with pretty much t

  • I'm a college student. I hate that my textbooks are hundreds of dollars, and would love open textbooks.

    But it seems like the companies arguing that the stuff in the book, in the order it's in, is copyrighted - which seems reasonable to me. If true, it doesn't matter if you use libre text and images - you're still "filling in" the template provided by the textbook. It's similar to a song cover - you're reproducing "your" version of the song, but it's still copyright of the original artist.

    They do actually pay people to come up with the best stuff to include, and the order in which to present it...

    • by Bigby (659157)

      What about note taking then? Wouldn't that violate copyright under the same premise?

      • Note taking is supposed to be synthesis - a combination of the lecture, the textbook section that the lecture addresses, and your own intuition. As such they are arguably original - perhaps "inspired by" the book. In any case, education is a fair-use exception. But this company is making money off of books, not teaching or taking a class. IANAL.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Monday April 09, 2012 @12:19PM (#39619737)
    Basically the lawsuit is because the text books company's don't want to lose massive amounts of profit. Textbooks are the biggest profit business in the worlds, for instance almost every year a new calculus and physic book gets published and for what reason?
  • Hundreds for text books that sometimes professors don't even assign for your coursework. Plus, I have to lug around these heavy-assed things when an electronic version would be SO much more convenient. Add to that classes like Calculus and Physics that aren't really changing much fundamentally, yet still manage to mandate new textbooks every few years so that you can't even get by w/ used texts.

  • that is all
  • by alienzed (732782)
    Knowledge is intellectual property and no one has the right to it without paying. Down with freedom of speech and freedom of knowledge! /end sarcasm
  • THIS is why we can't have anything nice!

  • by Rastl (955935) on Monday April 09, 2012 @04:34PM (#39622699) Journal

    If an open source data aggregator (my bad if that's the wrong way to phrase it) can use open source and non-copyrighted material to product almost the exact same result as a copyrighted textbook does that mean the copyrighted textbook is infringing on open source and non-copyrighted material? Seems to me that unless they can prove that they came up with those facts themselves then they're just gathering up the same information.

    "Look and feel" is another concept entirely. Ask Lotus how that one worked out for them.

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