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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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.

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