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Books Education Patents

Patent Granted on Mandatory Digital Keys to Prevent Textbook Piracy 168

First time accepted submitter discussM tipped us to a story about a recently granted patent in which "a system and method preventing unauthorized access to copyrighted academic texts is provided in which trademark licenses, discussion boards, and grade content are integrated into a web-based system that aligns the interests of teaching professionals, students, and publishers while also enhancing the overarching academic mission to create and disseminate knowledge." Quoting Torrent Freak: "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." But don't worry too much, from Ars: "Beyond the legal questions, other experts suggested forcing students to buy texts through such a system is unlikely to be implemented. Professors have few incentives to make it more difficult and to compel students even more than they already are to buy textbooks, digital or analog. (A 2011 survey from UC Riverside found that 78 percent of undergraduates 'bought fewer books, bought cheaper books or read books on reserve to help meet expenses.')"
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Patent Granted on Mandatory Digital Keys to Prevent Textbook Piracy

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  • Wow, nice. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:05PM (#40290925)

    More DRM nonsense. Stop being so paranoid about piracy that you hurt your own customers.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:11PM (#40290953)

    How come good free curriculum hasn't emerged? There are a few free curriculum projects out there, but they tend to have low quality, incompatible formats, and make it difficult for people to contribute.

    Because there's not incentive for professors and other professionals to participate in the development of such. If you wanted it to happen, you'd make the professors' pay or tenure contingent on their contributing to the development of public-domain curriculum in their discipline.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:24PM (#40291023)

    Not surprisingly, Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Pirate Party, says he's also against such a system.

    "The notion that academics go to lengths to prevent the spread of knowledge comes close to sacrilegious," he wrote in an e-mail to Ars. "In particular, it is a complete conflict of interest between the profits of old-guard publishers and the real mission of academia—to spread knowledge as widely as possible."

    The high cost of education in general prevents the "wide spread of knowledge" as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:24PM (#40291025)

    ...Free and Open textbooks for all their courses.

    This is exactly what OpenStax College Physics [] is providing: a popular but out of print textbook that was picked up by a couple of charitable organization (incl. Bill & Melinda Gates, I admit) and republished under a Creative Commons license. I will teach 170 pre-med students from this 'textbook' in the fall.

    I do disagree vehemently with the rest of your comment!

  • Re:Wow, nice. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:37PM (#40291111)

    Then I sure hope people have a "right" to remove any nonsensical DRM and use their own property in any way they wish. After someone has bought it from you, you're powerless (or should be, but remember, so-called "rights" can be given or taken away).

  • Re:Course fees? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Githaron ( 2462596 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @09:37PM (#40291113)
    When I was in college, I bought all my books online with most of them being brand new at half the price the college bookstore was charging for used. That said, most of the books were still ridiculously expensive. The reason colleges get away with their high book prices is because many of the students are getting their books paid for by the government or parents.
  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:12PM (#40291287)
    I know two professors, one in math, currently working on open source text books at my local college. I know the math prof is looking for a stable book (not reshuffling the order of the problems and calling it a new edition), the ability to correct errors (some of these books have had the same blatant errors for over a decade), the ability to customize for your curriculum (the regular publishers won't even fix obvious errors, so nobody expects them to listen to requests/suggestions), and a reasonable cost (whatever printing costs if you don't have a laptop or something since $120 for a math book loaded with errors is INSANE.)

    There are plenty of free or open source textbooks listed if you search, and whether it's appropriate for your class depends on your requirements. Other than that, I can't say anything about the quality of all of them, only the half dozen I've reviewed which looked just fine, but the teachers hadn't gone through them yet.
  • by Der Huhn Teufel ( 688813 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:32PM (#40291445)
    Students can get up to $5500 per year in government aid depending on their need that they do not have to pay back. The government also backs loans at much lower interest rates available elsewhere. Once virtually everyone has access to large amounts of money for college, colleges can easily raise their rate and still have a large volume of students attending - and this is seen by the fact that almost every college raises their tuition and fees far in excess of the rate of inflation every year. Colleges practically bleed money, and very few of them have any semblance of balanced accounting.
  • by Dr_Ish ( 639005 ) on Monday June 11, 2012 @10:43PM (#40291557) Homepage

    This seems typical of the world of publishing today. Many publishers are merely money making machines, with little regard for either students, or knowledge. Unfortunately, as publishers adopt more and more predatory practices, they end up pissing off both students and professors. There is one major academic publisher in my field Cengage (who operate under many other names), whose books I now refuse to use. They update editions every three years, doing little more than changing page numbers and changing the order of exercises. Each new edition comes with a substantial price hike and force me to rework sections of my classes. The result of this? I now have the equivalent of an on-line text I have developed myself over the years. So, they have lost the business.

    It is the very same publishing houses who are mean about sending us desk copies and charge us for them, if we do not adopt their texts. Again, they end up as losers, as there is no incentive to use their texts. They also get pissy when we sell the books that they send to us, without our asking. This again is silly. In the State in which I teach, professors have not had a pay rise in four years, so a few bucks to buy lunch was a welcome perk. Stopping this perk does not make us like them any more.

    That being said, not all publishers are like this. Some keep their editions for a long time and do not change much when they bring out new editions. A good example of this is Oxford University Press. So, when I need to use a text for a class, all the business goes to OUP. This is the correct way to do business in publishing. It should not be about quarterly results, but rather about building and maintaining long term relationships. The technological innovation described in the post is just yet another step in the wrong direction. Eventually though, publishers will have to work out the errors of their ways, or perish./p

  • Re:Wow, nice. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Monday June 11, 2012 @11:28PM (#40291871)

    Authors have a *right* to direct how their work is used.

    Not content with the right to control sales, now they want you to prove you bought it
    in order to take the class.

    What happens when roommates decide to share the book? Will they let two students register
    with the same book id number for the useless on-line material (which only exists to get your book ID number)?

    I shared several books with a roomie in college, because we took the courses at different time of the day.
    The hall book-handoff was a daily ritual. We split the price of the book, and resold it splitting the proceeds.

    If this scheme locks out Book IDs that were used previously, what happens to the first sale doctrine?

  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @02:05AM (#40292603) Journal

    Yeah. Enforcing copyright laws is defined by restricting the dissemination of knowledge.

  • Re:Profs and books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LSDelirious ( 1569065 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @02:48AM (#40292733)
    My Organic Chemistry professor "published" his lab manual. For ~$125, you got a shitty spiral type clip bound stack of photocopies. The Lab Manual was not only required for the course, but required to be out at all times during lab procedures, and in several places we were required to write in notes & answers to questions (in addition to our own hand written lab books), then rip out those pages and turn them in... so there was no reselling the book back at the end of the semester. Basically he charged us double the (then) cost of the course tuition to buy his xerox handouts from him. Talk about a fucking ripoff!
  • Re:Old news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EmperorArthur ( 1113223 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @03:36AM (#40292927)

    I'm right there with you.

    I've had several courses were all the homework was online. You could not pass the class without a code that came with a new textbook.

    Of course you could buy that code separately, but it cost half as much as the textbook itself. This is very similar to game companies using online passes to attempt to get rid of the used market.

    One other thing I should mention about all of these online homework systems. They SUCK. I have yet to see a truly good implementation of such a system. I'm not disparaging online homework or anything like that, but it's obvious that whoever designs these things doesn't understand education. Don't even get me started on the lack of partial credit for upper level physics problems. Fortunately, websites like Khan Academy are coming out with tools that are easy to use, and replace the traditional homework system. They're even managing to do it without earning the hate of every college student forced to put up with this crap.

  • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @07:32AM (#40293723)
    You don't have to make tenure and promotion "contingent" upon developing public-domain materials. You can just encourage it by allowing such work to count toward tenure. Such work is very time-consuming, especially if you're doing it for some form of publication because you have to make sure you're not infringing and that the work is near enough to perfect that it doesn't make you or the institution look bad in some way. All too often preparation of teaching materials counts for little or nothing, and the publication of online or free stuff or self-published stuff isn't regarded as counting for much. Frankly it often doesn't; it's just too easy for a lazy person to "publish" some twaddle as they look for promotion. So, in addition to allowing this stuff to count toward t&p, you also need some editorial oversight, which means you need some institution to pay for the people who will be doing that work, even if that "pay" is just release time.

panic: kernel trap (ignored)