Open content

With protection like this…

Just in case any of you haven’t read David Wiley’s reaction and follow up to the story that a publisher (Faulkner Press) and a lecturer are claiming that student lecture notes infringe his copyright, you should do so. Instead of just shaking his head in disbelief, as I would have done, David does some digging and finds this jaw-dropping quote on the publisher’s page about the lawsuit (called, now get this ‘The Future of Higher Ed’):

in this lawsuit Faulkner Press is proud to protect the rights of Professor Moulton and the rights of all professors.

Of course, the ‘rights’ of students aren’t a concern here. David also enters into an email debate with the publishers, in which the publisher says:

I’m not familiar with your views on IP in general,

It’s David Wiley!

but if you hold that
a professor’s lecture is in the public domain, such that any third
party may make as much money on that IP as the market will yield, then
we disagree.

Well, a professor’s lecture can be in the public domain, but that doesn’t mean a third party can make money from it – here’s a thought, maybe they could use a Creative Commons Non-Commercial licence? It’s the being in the public domain that really bothers the publishers, because for this read ‘then the reason to buy his books will be diminished and we will make less money.’

It’s clear that these publishers, who are no different from any others I suspect, simply don’t get it. Actually they don’t get lots of its: they don’t get that as an educator you want students to have as much access to your stuff as possible because it helps them learn; they don’t get that books come off the back of our subject knowledge which is funded by students to start with, not the other way round; and they don’t even get that by putting stuff out there you might actually sell more books.

It seems clear that in claiming to defend our rights, publishers really do think we educators just don’t understand IP. The idea that you might want to give stuff away just does not make any sense to them. I am reminded of Clay Shirky’s phrase when talking about open source support to AT&T guys, ‘it was if we said we get our Thursdays from a banana’. Increasingly publishers and educators are talking different languages here, and the real danger for publishers is that one day all educators will realise that they don’t really need them. If they think that taking strong legal action like this is the way to protect their business, then they should bear in mind it’s exactly what record companies did when they first hit the download problem. And look where they are now…

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