The realm of academic file-sharing is notorious -- is it legal to share these notes, and this is alright because we need it for the course but it's no longer in print, right? Students sharing textbooks, presentations and notes facilitated by Facebook's new Group feature came to mind -- but now, going beyond the realms of copyright infringement, it may go so far as to lower your grades.
A new patent has been granted to economics professor Joseph Henry Vogel, who is dead-set on stopping the "infringing" behaviour of devious students who share or lend textbooks -- whether off or online.
After all, gaining a college degree is business. But how do you make sure those miscreants don't go and share their coursebooks? Easy -- if you do, we lower your grade.
It works in this manner; a student must buy an online access code to sign up compulsory elements of a class. The code is purchased through buying the coursebook.
In possession of this code, you're allowed to use the course book and access restricted parts of your course. If you lend or resell, then those without the code will have their academic achievements lowered.
No code, and you cannot participate in online discussion boards, secured through the access barrier and naturally a compulsory part of a course. No sign in? Shame -- here's X percent off your grade.
"Professors are increasingly turning a blind eye when students appear in class with photocopied pages. Others facilitate piracy by placing texts in the library reserve where they can be photocopied."
Piracy, lending and reselling are threats to the publishing industry, the professor believes. Piracy might be, but surely stopping a student from taking a book from a library is going too far?
No, apparently not. If you purchase a second-hand book, no problem -- you can buy the access code for a "discount" rate.
Naturally, publishers are rubbing their hands in glee at the idea of being able to charge multiple times for a single book. Anthem Press of London is one such publisher who is interested in the simple, albeit restrictive system.
Less money for publishers, less opportunity for professors to be published. However, attacking the centuries-old lending system for books because it's possible to get a few outdated and probably irrelevant textbooks through torrents might be going too far.
Image credit: Nate Bolt
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