Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fair use and internet posting 

As students and legislators continue to press for a reduction in textbook costs, some faculty are resorting to using free resources on the internet. I do this for my intro course, using online copies of classics rather than asking students to buy them. Where I have choices, a free internet resource is preferred to a hardcover book for $35. Textbooks are a different matter to me at least, but I guess not to others. And publishers are pretty darned mad.

Book publishers say professors who post long excerpts of protected texts on the Internet without permission cost the industry at least $20 million a year. Cornell University, the Ivy League college in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed in September to regulate work its faculty puts on the Web, in response to a threatened lawsuit from the Association of American Publishers.

Professors are making material available free rather than requiring students to buy $100 textbooks. While faculty members from Harvard University to the University of Pennsylvania complain of a restricted flow of ideas, publishers say they must protect $3.35 billion in annual U.S. college textbook sales.

"We can't compete with free," says Allan Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs with the Washington-based publishers group, whose members include McGraw-Hill Cos. and Pearson Plc.

I would bet there will be a day soon where someone defines for universities more clearly than present what constitutes "fair use".