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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Comment by filmamigo
by filmamigo on Tue 10th Apr 2012 21:12 UTC
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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

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