Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 17:52 UTC
Legal Rage-inducing and despicable. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, three major textbook publishers, Pearson, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education, are suing a small startup company that produces open and free alternative textbooks. This startup, Boundless Learning, builds textbooks using creative commons licensed and otherwise freely available material - and this poses a threat to the three large textbook publishers. So, what do you do when you feel threatened? Well, file a copyright infringement lawsuit, of course.
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v Instead of rage
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:03 UTC
RE: Instead of rage
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:34 UTC in reply to "Instead of rage"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

They seem to be directly copying existing works, and wouldn't even have a business model were it not for the existing works. This is what you defend on your website?


Re-read the article, and linked material.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Instead of rage
by kwan_e on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:48 UTC in reply to "Instead of rage"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Why don't you relax and see how it all plays out? You can't possibly have enough information from one article to be the Judge and Jury in this case, I mean come on.


Is there any evidence that they aren't actually infringing on the copyright of the authors of the textbooks? It really, really, really looks like they are.


It really really saddens me to keep seeing otherwise intelligent people continue to make the argument that the lack of evidence of innocence is the same as the suggestion of guilt.

You can't possibly have enough information from one article to be the Judge and Jury in this case, I mean come on.

They seem to be directly copying existing works, and wouldn't even have a business model were it not for the existing works. This is what you defend on your website?


This is your logic? They seem guilty, therefore we assume guilt as the default position?

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: Instead of rage
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:00 UTC in reply to "RE: Instead of rage"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29


It really really saddens me to keep seeing otherwise intelligent people continue to make the argument that the lack of evidence of innocence is the same as the suggestion of guilt.

You can't possibly have enough information from one article to be the Judge and Jury in this case, I mean come on.

This is your logic? They seem guilty, therefore we assume guilt as the default position?


Point well taken. I just didn't find it fair to be as inflammatory as the OP was.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Instead of rage
by Soulbender on Sun 8th Apr 2012 01:58 UTC in reply to "Instead of rage"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Is there any evidence that they aren't actually infringing on the copyright of the authors of the textbooks?


Guilty unless proven innocent? Is that the new thing now?
You can't infringe on anyones copyright if you're not using copyrighted material. The company is using materials licensed under a creative commons license to create a product that is similar to an existing one. This is not copyright infringement since it's not based on any copyrighted material from the publishers.
That said, it could still be plagiarism but that's an entirely different case.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Instead of rage
by arpan on Sun 8th Apr 2012 07:13 UTC in reply to "RE: Instead of rage"
arpan Member since:
2006-07-30

hmmm.. but isn't the article doing the same thing. Thom has declared that the big publishers are guilty of ganging up on the little guy, but since none of us have seen the evidence, we do not know if they are bullying the little guy, or if they actually have a case.

Once the case starts, we will have more evidence from both sides, and it would make much more sense to wait until then to start throwing mud.

Reply Score: 3

Derivative Works
by matthekc on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:10 UTC
matthekc
Member since:
2006-10-28

To be eligible for copyright, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be considered a “new work” or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes, or adding little of substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes.

From: http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/derivative-work.html

Essentially what the company needed to do was create whole new textbooks that had the correct answers needed for the class in question.

The company is infringing you can't just slightly rearrange some words while copying an entire textbook. You also can't copy the layout and choose a similar picture for your examples. Just as you couldn't take the Declaration of Independence choose a few new words and call it a new work.

This is a shame because the idea behind the project is good and noble, but the way they went about doing this is wrong.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Derivative Works
by Jesuspower on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:33 UTC in reply to "Derivative Works"
Jesuspower Member since:
2006-01-28

They are not rearranging words from copyrighted works. It's new material thats similar to the old.

Reply Score: 8

RE[2]: Derivative Works
by matthekc on Sun 8th Apr 2012 16:59 UTC in reply to "RE: Derivative Works"
matthekc Member since:
2006-10-28

This is going to be a very grey area when you do that to an entire book. Had the books been formatted differently and used different examples there would be no case. The statement I made was a comment on the legal system and what is allowed. I think this work will be lost and efforts would have been better spent making good textbooks without coping the feel and layout.

Although for the intended purpose when an instructor says turn to page 120 and lets read that then discuss it does have to be similar.

I'm not pro-copyright or anything I will not respect copyright until the original constitutional time-frame is restored.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Derivative Works
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:37 UTC in reply to "Derivative Works"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

The company is infringing you can't just slightly rearrange some words while copying an entire textbook. You also can't copy the layout and choose a similar picture for your examples. Just as you couldn't take the Declaration of Independence choose a few new words and call it a new work.


Re-read the article and linked material.

Reply Score: 2

Dangerously grey ...
by MacTO on Sat 7th Apr 2012 18:52 UTC
MacTO
Member since:
2006-09-21

This sounds dangerously close to a grey area.

They may not be violating the letter of copyright law as it stands today, the description makes it sound like they are creating textbooks with little creative input on the content or structure. Rather, they are finding content that reflects the content of existing textbooks and piecing it together in a way the reflects the structure of existing textbooks. Even though the content used doesn't violate copyright law, the use of that content doesn't violate copyright law, and even following a similar structure doesn't violate copyright law the open textbook definitely sounds derivative.

It would have been far wiser for the publishers of these open textbooks to use creative commons licensed materials to create higher quality textbooks than the material that they are derived from instead of using those materials to create derivatives of existing products.

At any rate, this is something best decided by a sober court of law than publishers or arm-chair commentators.

Reply Score: 5

An analogy
by nickmain on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:01 UTC
nickmain
Member since:
2012-04-07

Imagine I wrote a program that parses the source code of a large proprietary C++ codebase and then uses the AST to produce a new codebase in Java - adjusting for the semantic differences between the two languages and changing all the class and variable names.

No actual text from the original codebase has been copied but the algorithms and design have been.

Does this constitute copyright infringement ?

Not stating an opinion either way - just a useful thought experiment.

Reply Score: 2

RE: An analogy
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:09 UTC in reply to "An analogy"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Except... That's not a correct analogy, since that looks more like a translation than what Boundless is doing.

Boundless is taking existing, original material covered by permissive licenses (e.g. from Wikipedia) to match the material in official, assigned books. The information in the official books is public knowledge - it's how the world works. You can't copyright the laws of thermodynamics. The way the original books are written is copyrighted - but the public sources Boundless draws from are worded entirely differently. However, when you explain the first law of thermodynamics, you only have so many ways of doing so.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: An analogy
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:21 UTC in reply to "RE: An analogy"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

Writing style, organization, visual design. All of that is unique to the material which they shadow copied (This much, they admit).

How then, given that it is more than general educational facts, does what they do not constitute infringement? Their book isn't just a bullet list of facts, there is a very deliberate style which is unique.

They are surely reducing the revenue of the big publishers, only because they are able to essentially create very similar knock offs of the book.

I think the anti-patent, anti-copyright fever here has turned into almost hysteria. If you keep raising a stink about non-issues like this, you risk drowning out the real legitimate issues out there surrounding patents and other things.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: An analogy
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:36 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: An analogy"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Writing style, organization, visual design. All of that is unique to the material which they shadow copied (This much, they admit).


You clearly didn't read the article - Boundless hasn't admitted any of this at all. It says right there in plain sight. No idea how you could've missed it. What you're looking at, as clearly mentioned, is what the large publishers *claim* they're doing.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: An analogy
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:41 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: An analogy"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29


You clearly didn't read the article - Boundless hasn't admitted any of this at all. It says right there in plain sight. No idea how you could've missed it. What you're looking at, as clearly mentioned, is what the large publishers *claim* they're doing.


From the article:
The company calls this mapping of printed book to open material “alignment”


They even have a name for it! Come on.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: An analogy
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:44 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: An analogy"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

"
You clearly didn't read the article - Boundless hasn't admitted any of this at all. It says right there in plain sight. No idea how you could've missed it. What you're looking at, as clearly mentioned, is what the large publishers *claim* they're doing.


From the article:
The company calls this mapping of printed book to open material “alignment”


They even have a name for it! Come on.
"

That's what they call the creation process for their books - it says nothing about copying a style or layout.

Really - read a bit more carefully.

Edited 2012-04-07 19:44 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: An analogy
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:54 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: An analogy"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29


That's what they call the creation process for their books - it says nothing about copying a style or layout.


So they have a special name, called mapping. They use it to create a textbook, but it doesn't actually map anything from the source book?

Uh...?

But alright, let's just say they don't admit to it, and pretend they never said that. Cool, that's fine.

However when it comes to court they better have a damn good defense. The burden of proof is significantly lower in a civil trial in the United States. Its based off of a preponderance of evidence.

All they need to do is persuade a judge that the end result of what Boundless produces is similar to their work and the judge will rule in their favor.

Being based off of Wikipedia or under media that's CC licensed is largely irrelevant.

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: An analogy
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 20:02 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: An analogy"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

So they have a special name, called mapping. They use it to create a textbook, but it doesn't actually map anything from the source book?


Exactly. They do not use ANY material from the source books. They only use freely available material (e.g. creative commons). So, if a book arrives at the part where it explains Newton's laws of motion, the mapping will determine a suitable CC-licensed explanation, and use that instead. Nothing from the source book finds its way into the new book. Nothing.

These days, there's enough of such material available to do so.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: An analogy
by WereCatf on Sun 8th Apr 2012 11:18 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: An analogy"
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Writing style, organization, visual design. All of that is unique to the material which they shadow copied (This much, they admit).

How then, given that it is more than general educational facts, does what they do not constitute infringement? Their book isn't just a bullet list of facts, there is a very deliberate style which is unique.


I am not entirely sure that the style of doing something, like e.g. presenting information, is copyrightable. Patentable, yes, however even there there are lots of restrictions, but copyright is quite a different thing altogether.

Just think about it: if it was that easy that you could sue someone because they happen to imitate your style while delivering all original content itself Madonna could make billions suing musicians all over the world. Millions of artists take inspiration from her songs.

Similarly, this could be applied to clothing as well; some people have a very distinctive style of presenting themselves, and presenting oneself is a form of presenting information. Would it become copyright violation then to imitate someone's style of presenting themselves? After all, you'd be having original content again, but you'd be presenting it following the stylings of someone else's product.

If this does indeed go to court and the court decides this is copyright violation then we'll be in quite a deep sh*t after that with everyone being able to sue anyone else who does anything sufficiently similar.

I think the anti-patent, anti-copyright fever here has turned into almost hysteria. If you keep raising a stink about non-issues like this, you risk drowning out the real legitimate issues out there surrounding patents and other things.


This is a perfectly legitimate issue.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: An analogy
by Drumhellar on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:35 UTC in reply to "RE: An analogy"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

While merely wording things differently isn't enough to evade copyright violation, at least with fictional works, it is enough when discussing facts of the world.

However, if the original text uses a bear to describe thermodynamics (as the source cites), then, perhaps a fish farm to describe communicable disease, corn crops for genetic engineering, webbed feet on dogs for selective breeding, etc etc, then Boundless Learning produces a text using the same examples as in the original source (but uses freely available sources), presents them in the same order, with the expressed intent of replacing the original source, there most definitely is a case for a suit.

This does appear to be more than just "It's free? SHUT IT DOWN!!!" but not much more.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: An analogy
by Thom_Holwerda on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: An analogy"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

While merely wording things differently isn't enough to evade copyright violation, at least with fictional works, it is enough when discussing facts of the world.

However, if the original text uses a bear to describe thermodynamics (as the source cites), then, perhaps a fish farm to describe communicable disease, corn crops for genetic engineering, webbed feet on dogs for selective breeding, etc etc, then Boundless Learning produces a text using the same examples as in the original source (but uses freely available sources), presents them in the same order, with the expressed intent of replacing the original source, there most definitely is a case for a suit.

This does appear to be more than just "It's free? SHUT IT DOWN!!!" but not much more.


Possibly - but not entirely. Take the Doppler effect. I've never seen it explained in any other way than with a car+siren driving by. Examples to clarify Newton's laws of motion, too, are usually strikingly similar no matter the source.

On top of that, if replacing a bear with, say, a dog in a for the rest identical example would magically NOT be a copyright violation... Then copyright law is obviously retarded to begin with, wouldn't you say?

Edited 2012-04-07 19:39 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: An analogy
by Nelson on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:45 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: An analogy"
Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29


Possibly - but not entirely. Take the Doppler effect. I've never seen it explained in any other way than with a car+siren driving by. Examples to clarify Newton's laws of motion, too, are usually strikingly similar no matter the source.


You have laid out the role of a judge in this case. They're supposed to take that input, and then make a decision regarding the validity of the claim.

They have in the past ruled in favor of some uniqueness, and against others which were more obvious and fundamental.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: An analogy
by Drumhellar on Sat 7th Apr 2012 21:10 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: An analogy"
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

Some choices are extremely common, such as the siren for the Doppler effect (Trains are common, though my favorite was Bill Nye swinging an old-style alarm clock around and around on 10 feet of rope), but some principles are easily demonstrated by a million things different things, with few common examples.

Using a bear as an example for thermodynamics is a good example of this. Really, any animal could be used, and using mammals in general is good, since humans have a natural familiarity with most of them. However, if a free book comes out, using not only a bear for one example, but identical examples for other principles, and that free book is promoted SPECIFICALLY as an alternative to a certain book, that is at least curious, and does warrant a closer look. Without having multiple examples of paid text-books, with corresponding free alternatives produced by this site, I can't say. However, if the descriptions are accurate, then the text-book printers may not be more horribly unreasonable than they normally are.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: An analogy
by shotsman on Sun 8th Apr 2012 06:31 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: An analogy"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Copyright in the USA is a mess because of Digney and that rodent. When was the last piece of work featusing that creature released? Pah!

They clearly want everything under copyright for
infinity.

Move to the world of printed works.
I have a few Engineering Textbook that date from the early 1900's(1901-1934). Under US law, none of them are out of copyright until at least 2021 (death + 75 years rule).

I'd like nothing better to digitise them and release them for the wider world to see. One of them contains a description of the work that went into the development of the Scheering Bridge. Since the inventor died in 1959, the volume is in Copyright until 2034. How sily is that.
I had the good luck to handle the original device of his in 1972. It was beautifully made.

Patently(soc) silly laws are keeping a lot information secret.

Back on Topic, I do think that there might be a bit of 'baiting' going on here. Use a small company to get the matter sorted out once and for all. I can't decide if it is the big pubs who are behind this or the freedom movement. Either way, there are some boundaries that need to be drawn. Once that is done (via a legal runling in 10 years by the USSC) the whole area will be able to move on.

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: An analogy
by dynamic1 on Sun 8th Apr 2012 20:44 UTC in reply to "RE: An analogy"
dynamic1 Member since:
2012-04-08

Actually, the analogy is quite good, because copyright law covers things like organisation and selection, not just whether you copy verbatim text, so Boundless is in the wrong here. You can check copyright case law to confirm.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: An analogy
by phoenix on Tue 10th Apr 2012 20:05 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: An analogy"
phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

That post is just begging for a "Citation Needed".

Reply Score: 2

RE: An analogy
by dragossh on Sun 8th Apr 2012 13:12 UTC in reply to "An analogy"
dragossh Member since:
2008-12-16

Imagine I wrote a program that parses the source code of a large proprietary C++ codebase and then uses the AST to produce a new codebase in Java - adjusting for the semantic differences between the two languages and changing all the class and variable names.

Imagine I wrote a program that does this. Now imagine you wrote a program that does this too, but without any access to my code. This is pretty much what Boundless is doing.

It looks like nowadays you're not supposed to try competing with the established guys. Amazing.

Reply Score: 4

RE: An analogy
by kwan_e on Mon 9th Apr 2012 04:41 UTC in reply to "An analogy"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Imagine I wrote a program that parses the source code of a large proprietary C++ codebase and then uses the AST to produce a new codebase in Java - adjusting for the semantic differences between the two languages and changing all the class and variable names.

No actual text from the original codebase has been copied but the algorithms and design have been.

Does this constitute copyright infringement ?

Not stating an opinion either way - just a useful thought experiment.


Licences like GPL provisions for reverse engineering, which is what this thought experiment is, but not what this open source textbook is about at all. You can't reverse engineer books, especially not in an automated way. For your thought experiment to have any bearing on this situation, you have to prove the open source textbook was done in an analogous way.

Also, what about previous textbooks that the current commercial books obviously pattern themselves after? Or what about curriculum standards that enforce how topics are taught and thus have effect on the layout any textbook has?

Reply Score: 1

US students will do what they always do
by tidux on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:34 UTC
tidux
Member since:
2011-08-13

We'll just sigh, take out another student loan, and buy them anyways. A lot of our college courses rely on a specific version of a specific textbook, so no alternative was ever going to fly in the first place.

Reply Score: 2

bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

Well, that solves the problem for college (not really, I'll get to that), but not for elementary, middle, or high school, where some schools are ending up forcing students to buy their books, and there are no student loans for kindergarten.

And, with the student loan system in the US, what happens is, students are told, "you need college", so they go to college. But, many can't afford it, and most students don't qualify for grants or scholarships. So, they get a student loan. The government hands them out like candy, because an educated populace is supposed to be a good thing. (Although there's some schizophrenia there, regarding the educated populace being a good thing.)

So, from there, pretty much all of the colleges collude to raise prices. Because college is now more expensive, the government hands more money out. Also, colleges promote sending more people to them, and hands degrees out easily. (Which devalues 4-year degrees, requiring masters or PhDs to get advanced jobs, making colleges even richer.) Loop continues until we're at where we are now, with people getting worthless degrees, and being tens of thousands of dollars in debt, that debt only going away when they die, as their only job prospects are being a Starbucks barista. And, it also means that some skilled professions, such as, oh, medicine, require going into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, which means that doctors need to be paid more to make up for it.

IMO, the only answers to that are, stop giving student loans, or make a college education free. The former hurts those that actually do need a college education and can't afford it, the latter could seriously advance our society if done right. Of course, it's the US, we'll find a way to utterly fuck it up. ;)

Reply Score: 9

bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

Well, I'll be damned.

http://www.smartmoney.com/borrow/student-loans/student-loans-on-ris...

There ARE student loans for kindergarten - private kindergarten, though.

Reply Score: 3

mrstep Member since:
2009-07-18

The entire issue would resolve itself if the student loans could be defaulted on. Suddenly the companies pushing the loans would re-evaluate whether a 4 year degree in some unmarketable wishy-washy area was actually worth financing to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and schools would have to contain costs in general with fewer loans being handed out.

But never fear, these loans will follow you right through bankruptcy, so don't expect this to be resolved any time soon - it's not like the loan companies are going to push for reform, and between those companies and students, you can guess who gives more in donations to the politicians making the laws. (And no, I never had student loans, but the structure of the system is just an unbelievable con...)

As for the textbooks, no problem if the profs would just give the assignments with actual topics instead of pages or chapters, though then you better hope your open text covers everything the teacher is looking for - but it's certainly possible if the teachers were on-board with reducing the cost of texts, particularly texts in areas where the subject matter hasn't changed or changes very infrequently.

And then you'd have no copyright issues, and this company could make its own original works instead of whatever it is they think they're doing which does sound awfully like something that would get you kicked out of school if you did it on papers you were submitting for a grade.

Reply Score: 1

bhtooefr Member since:
2009-02-19

I went to a local tech college to get a 2-year degree, and one thing that some of the instructors did (because a lot of the students were low-income) was print out handouts, and structure the class such that you could work from just the handouts if you paid attention (they acted as an outline, plus all assignments were out of the handouts instead of the book), so that you didn't need the assigned textbook unless you had trouble following along in class.

Reply Score: 2

tidux Member since:
2011-08-13

The reason that loan companies are terrified about being able to default on student loans is that they can't repossess an education - the popular phrase at the time of the "reform" passing was "moral hazard." Why that same logic doesn't get applied to banks I'll never know.

Reply Score: 1

interesting
by TechGeek on Sat 7th Apr 2012 19:58 UTC
TechGeek
Member since:
2006-01-14

Nelson:

The one thing that might save this company is the fact that they aren't actually writing any of the material. They are basically creating an outline of a text, and filling in the text with open versions they found. Some of that material may in fact be CC, who knows. But the fact is that the original content wasn't infringing. If the original parts aren't infringing, how can the sum of those parts be infringing? I think a better question is, will they get a judge who understands the nuances of copyright well enough to make an informed decision.

Reply Score: 2

RE: interesting
by arpan on Sun 8th Apr 2012 07:20 UTC in reply to "interesting"
arpan Member since:
2006-07-30

But have they verified that the open versions aren't infringing? Isn't it possible that some of the authors of the freely available material copied some content from the textbooks.

And the publishers may not have known about it, or have bothered about it since it didn't effect them. But the moment a competitor used that content, they would have gone through it very carefully to find any such instances.

It may not be willful infringement, but wouldn't the startup still be held liable?

Reply Score: 1

because..
by fran on Sat 7th Apr 2012 22:15 UTC
fran
Member since:
2010-08-06

..those publishers don't own the technology they write about they can't prohibit anyone else writing about it.
I hope they get trounced in court.

Edited 2012-04-07 22:15 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Very interesting
by mbit on Sun 8th Apr 2012 01:14 UTC
mbit
Member since:
2009-07-29

I found the topic of this OSNews article to be very interesting, but as an article not very well written.

In the complaint it says
"The Boundless textbooks copy the distinctive selection, arrangement, and presentation of Plaintiffs’ textbooks, along with other original text, imagery, and protected expression of Plaintiffs and their authors, all in violation of the Copyright Act."

If we focus on the first part
- distinctive selection
- arrangement
- presentation
I think it's an interesting question if reusing any of these things can make a work a derivative work or fall under copyright law in some other way.

The thing is, this reminds me alot of duplicating the interface to a program or component and also reverse engineering in general.

What comes to mind is the concept of "clean room design" or "Chinese Wall" which is explained in Wikipedia as
"Chinese wall refers to a reverse engineering method involving two separate groups. One group reverse-engineers the original code and writes thorough documentation, while the other group writes new code based only on the new documentation. This method insulates the new code from the old code, so that it will not be considered a derived work."

This is interesting since,
"When asked to describe how his company pulls together the open-education content to produce its digital textbooks, Mr. Diaz declined to elaborate on the process".

Searching for Clean room design as relating to books, I found this article from 2005, stating that
"a new book about Linux can be authored on the basis of information obtained by researching existing books [...]. This does not necessarily constitute copyright infringement [...]."
"However, this is the case only as long as passages from the existing works are not copied verbatim or nearly verbatim, and as long as the new work does not have substantially the same structure as any of the existing works."
http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/clean-room-technique

So I think it will be interesting to see if alignment will be considered legal or not and if it depends on how it is accomplished.

That being said I'm all for it and think the concept is brilliant, because it makes it possible for students to switch to open-education textbooks even though the school or teachers have not.
Also, it makes it possible to somewhat compare the quality of the two books by comparing the grades of the students using them.

Reply Score: 3

Arguing over Copyright
by bluedodo on Sun 8th Apr 2012 02:29 UTC
bluedodo
Member since:
2006-03-26

You are all arguing needlessly about whether these books violate copyright or not.

The real questions is if one of the big publishers produced a book in that covered materials in the way that a book that one of the other publishers produces does much like Boundless Learning does than would that be copyright infringement? If yes then what Boundless Learning is doing is copyright infringement under the current laws. If no then it is not copyright infringement and the big three just being cunts.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by zhuravlik
by zhuravlik on Sun 8th Apr 2012 07:02 UTC
zhuravlik
Member since:
2009-08-24

If I open a Wikipedia article, there's very strong possibility that this article cites one of the major textbooks on subject printed by a major publisher.

There's also a possibility that this article borrows the key ideas and sometimes even an artistic spirit from the original book.

And this is not a bad thing, because sometimes there's no another good way to describe things. Also, collecting the best ideas from the best books in one place is even better.

But trying to replace the original books with the books based on articles based on ideas borrowed from the original books is a really strange thing to do.

I think that the money spent to such work instead should be directed to the founding of the new publishing house which provides both printed books and CC-licensed eBooks on the same subject. No-one will disregard good printed books, even if he has their free electronic copies.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Comment by zhuravlik
by Luminair on Mon 9th Apr 2012 03:34 UTC in reply to "Comment by zhuravlik"
Luminair Member since:
2007-03-30

yeah this is just stupid machinations tripping over stupid machinations. if thought was free from crime like it should be, we wouldn't waste zillions on policing it.

the capitalists should believe that bad copies won't survive in the wild, and good copies deserve success if they can replace their progenitor. nah dawg

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by zhuravlik
by mrstep on Tue 10th Apr 2012 05:37 UTC in reply to "Comment by zhuravlik"
mrstep Member since:
2009-07-18

And this is not a bad thing, because sometimes there's no another good way to describe things. Also, collecting the best ideas from the best books in one place is even better.


I'd be curious as to how many of those descriptions were honed by the publishers over the years vs. how many they just copied. It's possible that some of the 'no other good way' cases are because it was refined into a good explanation. Then again, maybe not, which is why it would be interesting to see some examples of things that can't be explained in other ways. Guess the trial should offer some of that.

Using bears to explain energy seems like something other than the "best" way, and copying it sounds a lot like... copying.

But if a number of schools got together to make an 'open' series of textbooks and got them broadly used, preferably in electronic format, this whole issue would be moot. They could certainly actually pay people to work on that project and NOT have issues of copyright infringement, though the big publishers still wouldn't be happy.

Then again, I had enough professors who happened to be the authors of their textbooks (in one case going so far as to make us buy photocopies of the rough draft of an upcoming textbook which both cost as much as the real book AND had no value for selling back), so presumably some of the educators are profiting from the status quo of limited publishers and limited options for the students.

Reply Score: 1

I'm genuinely concerned....
by SeanParsons on Sun 8th Apr 2012 21:59 UTC
SeanParsons
Member since:
2011-01-11

I find it concerning that the issue everyone keeps going back to is general order and layout being a possible infringement for textbooks. I have written an instructors manual for LWW and I'm currently under contract to do some work for Cengage. Textbooks on various subjects have a specific order that information should be presented in for them to make sense.

I am just completing an open source pharmacy math book unrelated to any of my work with publishers, and while I've used original wording, I am limited on how specific medications should be dosed, various mathematical principles, and even limitations as to where I can obtain certain charts that are in the public domain. But beyond all that I need to teach simpler fundamental concepts prior to more complex concepts, therefor there are some similarities in the order I present my information for students when compared to other books on the subject.

Where does the line get drawn as far as structure goes. The idea that a book needs to present a concept, give a demonstration of said concept, provide a practice problem and then has a collection of related homework problems seems reasonable to me, but what do these publishers think?

Reply Score: 2

RE: I'm genuinely concerned....
by Lennie on Mon 9th Apr 2012 11:53 UTC in reply to "I'm genuinely concerned...."
Lennie Member since:
2007-09-22

Boundless has an interresting concept, I'm not sure how much similair they make their works in comparison to the textbooks they use as a reference.

If they just do: we need a chapter on subject X and it needs to be about 10 pages long. And judging by the reference material, we probably need some images for this subject to explain it better.

If they don't pick images that are to similair and they don't pick Creative Commons texts which quote any other text every few lines then I think those publishers have no grounds to complain about.

I think they wouldn't have a copyright infringement case they can win.

If they go about it, page by page, like so:

We need an image near the top explaining X and 3 paragraphs of text explaining Y. Then it gets a lot more near the gray area. In that case each single book and page would probably need to be examined and compared and the courtcases will take up a lot of time. The publishers could "DDOS-attack" Boundless.

What interrests me also is, does Boundless produce Creative Commons digital texts ?

Judging by their website, I think they do create free material and they don't seem to want to be in the printing business. They deliver it in digital form.

So how do they intent to make money ? You ask them to create a text ? I guess you pay them for text that haven't been created yet ? Possibly for very little money and they mostly piece things together existing texts and get payed by several students at ones to create the same text ?

Or do they intent to create a subscription service where people go online to download texts from their website ?

Reply Score: 2

I cannot see them winning
by tbar95 on Mon 9th Apr 2012 19:40 UTC
tbar95
Member since:
2012-04-09

I have not seen any mention in the discussions on the concept of plagiarism. It may well appear, and I am not saying it does, that boundless are plagiarizing the format, concept, structure etc. Changing the pictures and altering the words does not alter the fact that they may be seen as having not come up with anything definitively new. I stand to be corrected and wish them all the luck in court, but I am not holding my breath.

Reply Score: 1

Thom Holwerda is an anarchist.
by jefro on Mon 9th Apr 2012 19:47 UTC
jefro
Member since:
2007-04-13

All I can think of is that Thom is a real to life anarchist. One that believes in the destruction of civilization.

If you notice, the article again has nothing to do with any sort of OS news. It does have to do with what Thom believes is some evil system or public laws and rules that he is against.

What next on OSnews? Devil worshiping, child beating, or how to make a destructive device?

Can't we find any genuine OS news and keep the "I hate the world order" posts off?

Reply Score: 1

There is no poverty in the USA
by Digsbo on Tue 10th Apr 2012 01:17 UTC
Digsbo
Member since:
2011-10-04

"I can only imagine what the situation is like in a country with severe poverty problems, like the US. "

Well, Thom, it's probably not obvious from the way the press covers it, but I'll tell you first-hand as someone who has family that have been (and may again be) homeless, and has a spouse who works in the public sector directly engaged with child welfare:

There is no real material poverty in the USA. Parents claim they can't afford $1 eyeglasses for their children, but have cigarettes and smartphones. They claim they need support to help their children get extra help at school, but fail to sign papers to grant permission for people to evaluate the kids' learning needs. My brother-in-law can't afford oil to keep my nephew and niece warm, but can buy beer (and I suspect, but can't prove, drugs).

There is no material need; all food, clothing, etc., is provided, regardless of the fact that in many cases it is re-sold for drug money (yes, really, one student's family at my wife's school loses 7-8 winter coats per year which are replaced by the school, they know what is happening, but can't let the kid suffer). And kids' parents are criminally negligent, but never held accountable except in the most extreme cases, and sometimes not even then (yes, a child was removed from parental care for terrible abuse, but placed back with the family, because that's what the courts think is in the child's "best interests".

The poverty in the USA is emotional/spiritual, not monetary, and until there is general recognition of that, people will continue to be irresponsible, and the innocent will suffer.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by mutantsushi
by mutantsushi on Tue 10th Apr 2012 14:19 UTC
mutantsushi
Member since:
2006-08-18

Well, I think this case is really interesting, because it's a case of a fairly well established industry, based on written word copyright (+images), trying to push beyond that... Essentially it sounds like they are looking for the equivalent of software patents, an industry which also benefits from copyright of exact code, but also can prevent competitors from attempting to do 'the same job' in a different manner.

What I would like to know is: do these different big publishers THEMSELVES sometimes choose images of 'similar categories' (e.g. bears eating fish) to illustrate concepts (when the choice of image category is somewhat arbitrary and not a direct association of the concept to be illustrated)? If so, they are either in violation of copyright themself, or that line of attack is simply illegitamate. At any rate, if the images in question DO illustrate the concept, I can't see how one can limit usage of that image category since describing nature/science/the world as it is (as the picture represents) is completely legit, outside of 1984.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by filmamigo
by filmamigo on Tue 10th Apr 2012 21:12 UTC
filmamigo
Member since:
2010-01-12

We don't have Boundless' response, nor has the matter been heard by the courts, so of course we can't say if anyone is guilty. But we are free to comment on the merits of the case as put forward by the Plaintiffs. I quote from their Complaint:

"[Boundless] boasts that they copy the precise selection, structure, organization and depth of coverage of Plaintiffs’ textbooks and then map-in substitute text, right down to duplicating Plaintiffs’pagination. Defendant has taken hundreds of topics, sub-topics, and sub-sub-topics thatcomprise Plaintiffs’ textbooks and copied them into the Boundless texts, even presenting them inthe same order, and keying their placement to Plaintiffs’ actual pagination. Defendant hasengaged in similar copying or paraphrasing with respect to the substance of hundreds of photographs, illustration, captions, and other original aspects of Plaintiffs’ textbooks."

Anyone who has written a book recognizes that a great deal of the creativity, effort and ingenuity comes from the granular organization of the information in a way that assists the argument. Combined with the example of the bear pictures, and the complaint seems worthy enough to at least be heard by the courts.

This is a new, novel, and currently gray area. But to me the best comparison is to music. It's like Boundless are "performing" a new rendition of the original publishers' "compositions." In music rights, those are two separate rights, both individually protected. Even if you chose to perform an existing composition using only notes sampled from existing "Creative Commons" recordings, it's still a performance of an existing composition.

I realize that this argument holds no actual legal water, being based on a completely different form of expression. But in the absence of case law that directly addresses this very novel situation, I can't think of a better analogy.

Edited 2012-04-10 21:14 UTC

Reply Score: 1

It's not about using free content...
by tomcat on Wed 11th Apr 2012 00:58 UTC
tomcat
Member since:
2006-01-06

It's about arranging that free content based on the templates of copyrighted works. That's a derivative work, it's not allowed under copyright law. This small company should have independently created its own outlines, and then pulled free content. Big mistake. They're going to lose their company.

Reply Score: 2

Zer0C001 Member since:
2011-12-22

It's about arranging that free content based on the templates of copyrighted works. That's a derivative work, it's not allowed under copyright law. This small company should have independently created its own outlines, and then pulled free content. Big mistake. They're going to lose their company.

What is a big mistake is the copyright law itself !!! ( at least in its current form )
If they had created their own outlines the books would be useless to students, because almost no professor who has written a textbook ( as most of them do, at least in my country ) for which he/she gets 5% of the profit would use a different textbook in class, and when the professor says read pages 112 to 121, you'd be reading a completely different topic!

Reply Score: 1