Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Georgia State Sued For Copyright Infringement

The migration to digital delivery of course pack and text material is inexorable in today's educational environment. Unfortunately students, administrators and academics are taking matters into their own hands and digitizing publisher content without permission and without compensation. Over the past (at least) five years, AAP has taken corrective action against schools and universities that have facilitated the ability of students to access this content, and behind the scenes have been able to help institute policies that protect the rights of publishers. In egregious cases, academics have scanned entire works for all reading material required for their courses, placed this material on their intranet course websites and then broadcast the availability of this material to their students. Often they have noted 'you (the student) don't have to pay for your course material'

Many will admit that the educational publishers as a group are not moving fast enough to replace their print versions with electronic databases but fear of entering the 'valley of death' prevails. The 'valley of death' is the graphic depiction of what will happen to your revenue line as you proactively make a transition from print to digital. If you are lucky, after 3-4yrs you will regain the revenue you had in the year before you attempted to transform your business. Ultimately, the business becomes stronger and more flexible in the manner in which the publisher can seek new markets and business development. It's just that the valley looks so horrible (and no one will make their bonus) that discourages the publisher. This is the transition we went through at Bowker in the early 2000's with the added benefit that we actually had a business at the end of it.

Three publishers (and notably not AAP) have sued Georgia State for allowing course material to be made available to students that goes beyond 'fair use'. In the NYT article Brewster Kahle is looking for "innovation" but this is just plain steeling. Simply because the materials are not available in the form they want gives them no right to scan it and place it on a network. This case is no different than the Kinko's xeroxing case almost 20 yrs ago. All institutions have it in their power to set standards and policies that protect the rights of publishers. After all, many of these infractions occur on the university's computer networks. Too many universities appear to disparage the property rights of others and with not much more than a 'nod and a wink' regarding 'fair use policy' to facilitate this activity.

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