Back on November 8 and 9, I did a couple of posts about the high costs of textbooks.
Today a friend (Thanks, CN) emailed me an article that appeared in Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI). The introductory paragraph said:
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.
I immediately went to the AAP's website to check for press releases.
Sure enough, on September 19, the AAP issued a release in which it said:
As part of ongoing discussions over the manner in which Cornell University provides copyrighted course content to students in digital formats, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Cornell recently announced a new set of copyright guidelines to govern the use of electronic course materials on the library’s electronic course reserves system, on faculty and departmental web pages, and through the various “course management” websites used at Cornell. The guidelines affirm that the use of such
content is governed by the same legal principles that apply to printed materials.
When I was in graduate school from 1990 to 1993, I always appreciated the few professors who put together a bundle of articles and chapters from various textbooks in order to save students from having to buy multiple books. I would pick up the photocopied bundle at the school's copy shop. The price included the copies and the copyright fees.
According to the Seattle PI article, "The Cornell campus store assembles course packs and handles payment of permission fees, which alone are 'considerably in excess' of $200,000 per year."
Since that time, the outrageous cost of textbooks has more teachers seeking alternatives to asking students to pay for three or four books per class. In 2004, Congress held hearings on the escalating cost of books (the estimates at that time were that four years of college could carry a textbook bill of $4,000). No relief for students came out of those hearings.
However, with the increasing popularity of the Internet, many professors have been posting the course material online.
Tracey Armstrong, the chief operating officer of the Copyright Clearance Center, which collects royalties from universities on behalf of publishers, "estimates that publishers' losses may be more than $20 million a year, based on the $27 million in annual royalties her agency collects." (PI)
Patricia Schroeder, head of the AAP, said: AAP hopes that Cornell's actions will set an example for other colleges and universities and provide them an opportunity to review their own practices and institute similar guidelines."