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Patent Granted on Mandatory Digital Keys to Prevent Textbook Piracy

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the arm-the-lawsuit-cannon dept.

Books 168

First time accepted submitter discussM tipped us to a story about a recently granted patent in which "a system and method preventing unauthorized access to copyrighted academic texts is provided in which trademark licenses, discussion boards, and grade content are integrated into a web-based system that aligns the interests of teaching professionals, students, and publishers while also enhancing the overarching academic mission to create and disseminate knowledge." Quoting Torrent Freak: "As part of a course, students will have to participate in a web-based discussion board, an activity which counts towards their final grade. To gain access to the board students need a special code, which they get by buying the associated textbook." But don't worry too much, from Ars: "Beyond the legal questions, other experts suggested forcing students to buy texts through such a system is unlikely to be implemented. Professors have few incentives to make it more difficult and to compel students even more than they already are to buy textbooks, digital or analog. (A 2011 survey from UC Riverside found that 78 percent of undergraduates 'bought fewer books, bought cheaper books or read books on reserve to help meet expenses.')"

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168 comments

Profs and books (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290903)

They ought to ask how many professors bought all the textbooks they required as students, and never used photocopies.

Then why file for a patent? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291299)

As if we believe in the fairy tale that someone has gone all the troubles (and the associated costs) to file a patent RESTRICTING access to specific academic texts to only those who are authorized that THEY WON'T CHARGE ANYTHING ??

They think we live in fairy land
 

Re:Then why file for a patent? (5, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291687)

They think we live in fairy land

I think they live in a fairy land. From the summary.

...enhancing the overarching academic mission to create and disseminate knowledge.

The idea that protecting copyright helps encourage the creation process is at least a valid idea. However I don't see any way that restricting the ability to copy that knowledge somehow helps disseminate it.

Re:Then why file for a patent? (3, Interesting)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292603)

Yeah. Enforcing copyright laws is defined by restricting the dissemination of knowledge.

Re:Profs and books (2)

murder_face (2574275) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291731)

They ought to ask how many professors WROTE the textbooks that they are requiring students to buy. I'm not sure about other places, but at the community college that my wife attends 85% of the books that she has been required to purchase have been written by the professor teaching the class. Call me naive, but isn't that kind of a conflict of interest?

Re:Profs and books (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292277)

Check into it and get back to us. Specifically, get the titles of those books and check availability, and see if any colleges anywhere else list them.

If you find a vanity-press system where a publisher is doing small runs (easily done these days) for individual college-professor sets, you've got a story we want to hear about.

But keep in mind a /lot/ of texts "by" instructors I've seen are just collections of public domain works (and often grey-area out-of-print) tailored to the course they teach. Run some searches on body text of the examples you have on hand.

Re:Profs and books (3, Interesting)

LSDelirious (1569065) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292733)

My Organic Chemistry professor "published" his lab manual. For ~$125, you got a shitty spiral type clip bound stack of photocopies. The Lab Manual was not only required for the course, but required to be out at all times during lab procedures, and in several places we were required to write in notes & answers to questions (in addition to our own hand written lab books), then rip out those pages and turn them in... so there was no reselling the book back at the end of the semester. Basically he charged us double the (then) cost of the course tuition to buy his xerox handouts from him. Talk about a fucking ripoff!

Re:Profs and books (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40293033)

They ought to ask how many professors WROTE the textbooks that they are requiring students to buy. I'm not sure about other places, but at the community college that my wife attends 85% of the books that she has been required to purchase have been written by the professor teaching the class. Call me naive, but isn't that kind of a conflict of interest?

When I was at University the only textbooks written by the professor were widely used and published ones. He also was very careful to offer alternatives, though he dis say that his courses followed the structure of his books and with alternatives you would be jumping around more.

Knowledge (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290907)

Knowledge is power, hide it well.

Free Curriculum Foundation? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#40290917)

How come good free curriculum hasn't emerged? There are a few free curriculum projects out there, but they tend to have low quality, incompatible formats, and make it difficult for people to contribute.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (4, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#40290953)

How come good free curriculum hasn't emerged? There are a few free curriculum projects out there, but they tend to have low quality, incompatible formats, and make it difficult for people to contribute.

Because there's not incentive for professors and other professionals to participate in the development of such. If you wanted it to happen, you'd make the professors' pay or tenure contingent on their contributing to the development of public-domain curriculum in their discipline.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (4, Interesting)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291287)

I know two professors, one in math, currently working on open source text books at my local college. I know the math prof is looking for a stable book (not reshuffling the order of the problems and calling it a new edition), the ability to correct errors (some of these books have had the same blatant errors for over a decade), the ability to customize for your curriculum (the regular publishers won't even fix obvious errors, so nobody expects them to listen to requests/suggestions), and a reasonable cost (whatever printing costs if you don't have a laptop or something since $120 for a math book loaded with errors is INSANE.)

There are plenty of free or open source textbooks listed if you search, and whether it's appropriate for your class depends on your requirements. Other than that, I can't say anything about the quality of all of them, only the half dozen I've reviewed which looked just fine, but the teachers hadn't gone through them yet.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40293065)

One university at least is trying to address this - Minnesota is working on collecting reviews of open-source texts -
  Conventional textbooks have the advantage of a marketing department alerting departments around the country of their latest offerings, they also have the advantage of professors opting for what they are familiar with - either in previous semesters or in their own undergraduate/TA days. If a high quality open source text emerges, this database might help it spread. A lot of the current ones I've seen are out of print texts from retiring faculty, which may or may not be the best quality. I'm hopeful that in a decade intro course texts will appear of comparable quality to commercial offerings, but keep in mind that the standard Calculus and other intro course books have had decades to become entrenched and digital textbooks which enable open source solutions are still in their infancy.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (5, Insightful)

khipu (2511498) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291115)

There are plenty of good, free and low-cost textbooks, and many professors use them.

But, given that students are willing to pay tens of thousands per year to go to college in the first place, a few hundreds dollars in books hardly make a big difference.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291615)

It has, the classroom method for instruction and knowledge is dead. It died when the internet came about. The thing is though, college is not about instruction it is about getting a piece of paper to get hired (or an experience).

Just about every single skill can be learned for free online. Want to know about British history? Identify Roman coins? Learn C#? You can find that for free online. Unless you have a degree though, chances are you aren't going to make it past the first round of screening HR does.

Re:Free Curriculum Foundation? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292289)

You don't go to a four-year college to learn a skill... if that's what you're after, you're missing the point.

Everything I've seen in open course ware teaches introductory material at most. Yes, you can learn C# on-line. But knowing a language and knowing how to work in a team or make high quality software come only through doing it. You can go through a trial by fire by working with an open source project, or go to a university and have a professor facilitate a project, evaluating you along the way and correcting your misconceptions before it's too late.

University isn't about sticking around for four years and then "knowing how to program". It's about developing higher-order thinking skills, intuition, professional interpersonal skills, and the ability to accurately evaluate oneself and others. The classroom method is dead because professors don't give a damn about teaching students these sorts of things anymore. The Internet had nothing to do with it.

Wow, nice. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290925)

More DRM nonsense. Stop being so paranoid about piracy that you hurt your own customers.

Re:Wow, nice. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291047)

Authors have a *right* to direct how their work is used.

Re:Wow, nice. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291111)

Then I sure hope people have a "right" to remove any nonsensical DRM and use their own property in any way they wish. After someone has bought it from you, you're powerless (or should be, but remember, so-called "rights" can be given or taken away).

Re:Wow, nice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292083)

Then I sure hope people have a "right" to remove any nonsensical DRM and use their own property in any way they wish.

Of course the rights of the customer are respected. That's why the books aren't sold, but licensed. The license is, of course, non-transferable.

Re:Wow, nice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291209)

Your rights extend as far as your nose.

Re:Wow, nice. (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291871)

Authors have a *right* to direct how their work is used.

Not content with the right to control sales, now they want you to prove you bought it
in order to take the class.

What happens when roommates decide to share the book? Will they let two students register
with the same book id number for the useless on-line material (which only exists to get your book ID number)?

I shared several books with a roomie in college, because we took the courses at different time of the day.
The hall book-handoff was a daily ritual. We split the price of the book, and resold it splitting the proceeds.

If this scheme locks out Book IDs that were used previously, what happens to the first sale doctrine?

Re:Wow, nice. (3, Informative)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292687)

At least according to the 9th Circuit in Vernor v. Autodesk, there is no first sale doctrine if the transaction includes a licensing agreement which substantially restricts (such as prohibiting subsequent transfer of the access license) the rights of the purchaser. All this, even if the transaction is treated as a straight-up sale in all other regards by both parties (full upfront payment with no obligation to return the material after a time, and no further obligations on the part of the seller).

As a result, any sale can be converted to a license simply by posting a licensing agreement which includes restrictive terms. This latter part is not idle speculation, but is actually specifically noted by the 9th Circuit order. Given that the 9th Circuit declined an en banc hearing on the results and SCOTUS declined certiorari, the ruling will stand unchallenged until the unlikely event that another Circuit issues an opposing ruling. Given that the US judiciary has evolved from ruling on function (looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, probably a duck) over form (looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, appellant claims it's a cat, probably a cat), it's unlikely SCOTUS would reverse this ruling even if it somehow ends up in front of them though.

Re:Wow, nice. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292701)

Book sales are not the same as software.

Re:Wow, nice. (4, Informative)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292813)

I agree. The 9th Circuit judges who heard the case I listed do not.

Specifically:

The ALA fears that the software industry’s licensing practices could be adopted by other copyright owners, including book publishers, record
labels, and movie studios.

These are serious contentions on both sides, but they do not alter our conclusion that our precedent from Wise through the MAI trio requires the result we reach. Congress is free, of course, to modify the first sale doctrine and the essential step defense if it deems these or other policy considerations to require a different approach.

The Court tacitly agrees with the ALA's claims as to the potential effects of the ruling on other media should the licensing practices of the software industry be adopted by other distributors outside the software industry. Book sales are only different because the use of licensing has not been adopted. Without Congressional intervention, book and video sellers are free to adopt the conventions of software licensing and end secondary markets.

Re:Wow, nice. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292439)

Since when? They have a granted right to be the sole source of copies for a limited time, but that is a bargain with the public, not a natural right. They do NOT have a right to decide how the work is used.If I want to buy a copy of your finely crafted magnum opus and run it through the Swedish Chef filter, that's *MY* right. If you don't like it, don't sell copies of your book, ever.

Re:Wow, nice. (2)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292699)

Since when?

Since Sept 10th, 2010.

Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., 621 F. 3d 1102 - 2010

Students are PAYING CUSTOMERS and should demand... (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40290933)

...Free and Open textbooks for all their courses.

School is PURELY a financial transaction, but schools want to fuck their customers good and hard. (I found working in a community college highly educational.) They want to make programs fit available funding, and Pell Grant farming is standard.

The profits made on books are calculated as part of the profit of each program. They are NOT provided by the school book store as a convenience, unless you consider anal rape convenient.

Re:Students are PAYING CUSTOMERS and should demand (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291025)

...Free and Open textbooks for all their courses.

This is exactly what OpenStax College Physics [openstaxcollege.org] is providing: a popular but out of print textbook that was picked up by a couple of charitable organization (incl. Bill & Melinda Gates, I admit) and republished under a Creative Commons license. I will teach 170 pre-med students from this 'textbook' in the fall.

I do disagree vehemently with the rest of your comment!

Re:Students are PAYING CUSTOMERS and should demand (1)

karmatic (776420) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291243)

What do you mean by Pell Grant farming?

Re:Students are PAYING CUSTOMERS and should demand (3, Interesting)

Der Huhn Teufel (688813) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291445)

Students can get up to $5500 per year in government aid depending on their need that they do not have to pay back. The government also backs loans at much lower interest rates available elsewhere. Once virtually everyone has access to large amounts of money for college, colleges can easily raise their rate and still have a large volume of students attending - and this is seen by the fact that almost every college raises their tuition and fees far in excess of the rate of inflation every year. Colleges practically bleed money, and very few of them have any semblance of balanced accounting.

Course fees? (5, Insightful)

SurfaceMount (749329) | more than 2 years ago | (#40290947)

Whatever happened to just charging a fee for attending the course?
Stop trying to make extra money through textbook "upsells". Be upfront and honest by charging the book fee as part of the upfront course fees and give each student a copy.

Re:Course fees? (3, Informative)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291007)

Unless customers DEMAND change it won't happen because book sales are highly profitable.

College is a business. Business is war.

Re:Course fees? (3, Interesting)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291113)

When I was in college, I bought all my books online with most of them being brand new at half the price the college bookstore was charging for used. That said, most of the books were still ridiculously expensive. The reason colleges get away with their high book prices is because many of the students are getting their books paid for by the government or parents.

Re:Course fees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291079)

We had paid textbooks as part of out course fee. However the professor just created custom text book with chapters they thought were relevant. This means the text book for cheap for the college ( even though they charged the full fee). The textbook still does not make sense unless you have the missing chapters.

Re:Course fees? (2)

lahvak (69490) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291225)

You are (most of the time) talking about different entities extracting the fees. Tuition money goes to the college. The money you pay for a textbook goes to the textbook publisher.

Back when price of textbooks were reasonable, professors would select textbooks according to their contents. Since in some areas there are many textbooks with comparable contents, publishers started competing in providing "perks" to teachers with their textbook: a test generator, an online gradebook, an online homework system etc. Now there are teachers who select textbook not so much by contents, but by availability of such "additions". Now publishers are trying to abuse this system to stop people from byuing what they call "pirated" (meaning used) textbooks. Some professors are not aware of that, and the publishers keep using the "additions" and "perks" to trick them into selecting such textbooks. Some of us are very aware of that problem, and refuse to ever assign a book like that. I have never heard about a professor or a college actually conspiring with a publisher in order to extract more money from students. It may actually be illegeal to do so.

Re:Course fees? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292729)

The money you pay for a textbook goes to the textbook publisher.

Only partially true. Most colleges drastically mark up the price of textbooks, and the above ignores the vast quantity of used textbooks they purchase for 10% of cost and resell for 90% of new.

It also ignores the practice of professors creating custom, very non-professional texts for their classes and splitting the profits with the college. These are texts which cannot be obtained anywhere else, and are frequently packaged in such a way that they are not re-usable (tear-out assignments being a favorite trick).

Re:Course fees? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292745)

Also, of the dozen or so colleges I'm at least passingly familiar with, all require professors to list at least one text even if the class is structured so one is not necessary. The better professors of those particular classes would inform the students on the first day that purchasing the text was optional even if the course guide claimed it was mandatory. This didn't help those who had purchased a new text and taken the shrinkwrap off before the first day of class though. Instant 25-30% deduction from the return price at the college bookstore.

Re:Course fees? (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292695)

there are some colleges that loan out textbooks like a grade school or high school does, or that charge modest rental fees (a fraction of what even a used copy would sell for) so you don't have to buy them if you don't want (or can't afford) to.

the reason that colleges don't just give them out as part of tuition is that tuition can be paid by scholarships, grants and other aid. it wouldn't really be right if students could sell those 'free' books, converting some of their financial aid to cash, to buy more beer instead of putting the proceeds back into their education which is what the aid is for (and no, kegs are not a legitimate education expense).

books? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290991)

Of the 40+ textbooks I was told were required throughout my undergrad years I bought about 4 used, 1 new, rented 2, and never bothered with the rest. I had a 3.5 gpa average by actually attending class each day. It cost over $110,000 for 4 years of out of state tuition, IMHO books should come with that. $0.02

Failure is guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290993)

Two basic facts:

(1) Bits cannot be made uncopyable. If you can read it, then you can copy it. No fancy patented scheme can prevent that. There are no exceptions.

(2) If encryption is used for this, then that means that encryption technology is being misapplied. If you give both the message and the key to the untrusted party, then you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what encryption is used for.

Re:Failure is guaranteed (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291163)

The goal is to make the bar to high for the casual 'infringer'. that it causes grief for customers, or that the hard core will still do it, isn't part of their concern.

And yes, it can be done, once the very hardware itsself to view and copy is locked down. ( think mandatory TPM )

Re:Failure is guaranteed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291321)

And yes, it can be done, once the very hardware itsself to view and copy is locked down. ( think mandatory TPM )

I'm tired of this. Didn't you read the post you replied to? Please tell me what kind of "mandatory TPM" device you have in mind that enables my eyes to read a text but not a camera. Please, do tell.

Re:Failure is guaranteed (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291957)

but the casual infringer can still download the copy the dude with talent ripped the drm out of or he can use the analog hole and ocr the book like people have been doing for years, or he could take a screen shot of each page of the book. this is just half-assed drm scheme that doesn't do any good anyway.

Re:Failure is guaranteed (2)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291345)

My cynical self says that is true, but I remember in the past people saying that Internet censorship was impossible. Now, it is commonplace.

I wouldn't be surprised if there is a son-of-ACTA bill brewing, where it wouldn't just do encryption, but signatures, so if something detects an unencrypted item (music/book/video/program), it would shut the device down, phone home, and call the local popo on a "IP tampering" violation.

DRM is improving. It took a long time for the iPhone 4s to be jailbroken. It took almost five years for any type of action to crack the PS3. Blu-Ray is still a cat and mouse game.

With a law and reactive infrastructure in place that would not just disable devices that are tampered with (think XBL bans), but also accounts. Then add criminal penalties onto it, and it wouldn't be surprising to see something put into place that would be robust without any cracks.

Yes, in theory, having Bob and Charlie be the same person is wrong, but throw enough tamper-resistant hardware at the problem, and it will work, just like how deploying censorware has effectively worked.

Dont buy the books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40290995)

For many of the courses I did we were told that certain books were good to read if you wanted to know more about the topic, but that the course could be completed with just the slides.
In other cases we got copies of the book because it had been out of print for 15 years.
Some courses didn't even bother with books and everything was just the slides and old exams.
I think only bought 2 books for school that I still check from time to time, and around 5 or so that I used extensively for the course itself.
Generally I think that after the first year most people only bought the books if it turned out the course was impossible to follow without it after several lectures.

Not likely to happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291009)

This seems unlikely to gain traction in educational institutions for a number of reasons. At UCSD, most of the professors I've encountered are just as interested as the students in keeping cost of materials down. Most professors post the full text of the problem sets on class websites, so that they are independent of which edition of a textbook (if any) students purchase. Some professors state that the textbook is recommended, but not required, as their lectures are self-contained.

Colleges already doing it! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291017)

North Georgia college in Dahlonega is already doing it!! My daughter had to buy a specific text book, with an access code, for her online medical terminology course this summer...

Oh, and world peace too. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291023)

Not surprisingly, Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Pirate Party, says he's also against such a system.

"The notion that academics go to lengths to prevent the spread of knowledge comes close to sacrilegious," he wrote in an e-mail to Ars. "In particular, it is a complete conflict of interest between the profits of old-guard publishers and the real mission of academia—to spread knowledge as widely as possible."

The high cost of education in general prevents the "wide spread of knowledge" as well.

They ought to ask about prior art (1)

Bozovision (107228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291051)

Because I suggested something very similar to CMP when Dr Dobbs was failing in slow motion: codes with the magazine to gain access to online resources.

Old news (4, Informative)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291029)

I'm in my sophomore year of college, and I've already taken half a dozen classes requiring an $80 online pass.

Re:Old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291337)

Yes, as a recent grad I can tell you they already do this. And they have a huge incentive. College professors can now assign mountains of homework that grades itself.

Re:Old news (3, Interesting)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292927)

I'm right there with you.

I've had several courses were all the homework was online. You could not pass the class without a code that came with a new textbook.

Of course you could buy that code separately, but it cost half as much as the textbook itself. This is very similar to game companies using online passes to attempt to get rid of the used market.

One other thing I should mention about all of these online homework systems. They SUCK. I have yet to see a truly good implementation of such a system. I'm not disparaging online homework or anything like that, but it's obvious that whoever designs these things doesn't understand education. Don't even get me started on the lack of partial credit for upper level physics problems. Fortunately, websites like Khan Academy are coming out with tools that are easy to use, and replace the traditional homework system. They're even managing to do it without earning the hate of every college student forced to put up with this crap.

"Professors have few incentives... (2)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291035)

...to make it more difficult and to compel students even more than they already are to buy textbooks"

Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Oh God... he was serious, wasn't he?

Uh, for the record, my bro's French text was a) useless and b) written by the department head. A copy was ordered for each and every student, and they sat in the bookstore all year until the teacher was advised that no one would receive their grades until they were gone because, hey, how could anyone have gotten through the coursework w/o the textbook? Right?

Re:"Professors have few incentives... (2)

Githaron (2462596) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291135)

The college told you that you wouldn't get a grade if everyone in the class didn't buy a text book written by the teacher? It sounds like you should have gotten a lawyer.

example from an MIT course (1)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291043)

Anant Agarwal [mit.edu] recently reported that at the course MIT 6.002 [mit.edu] where textbooks are freely available for students, the textbook sales have gone through the roof. Publishers currently learn from such cases. This patent is complete nonsense. No teacher would make financial payments linked to grades.

Re:example from an MIT course (2, Insightful)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291141)

No teacher would make financial payments linked to grades.

That's a very rosy view of the academe you have there. Let me guess, you went to an expensive university where the teachers' salaries are high enough that students' grades are non-"negotiable".

News Flash: They already do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291059)

In both of my statistics and all three accounting classes (at two different universities) I had to purchase a bundle that comes with the "access code" for graded assignments. I know the accounting variety was called WileyPlus. This is old news.

Textbook companies are horrible (1)

pegasustonans (589396) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291065)

One of the reasons textbooks are largely reviled in academia is their ability to turn students off, drain their wallet and misinform (in some instances) all at the same time.

If the textbook industry implodes, I think celebration is in order. The quality and cost of education would likely improve.

Re:Textbook companies are horrible (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291165)

You're forgetting that like the rest of the government, education seems to be heavily controlled by the copyright cartels. How the hell did we let these people get this much money and power?

MPAA frames the news (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291449)

the government [...] seems to be heavily controlled by the copyright cartels. How the hell did we let these people get this much money and power?

Getting elected to U.S. federal office requires the cooperation of the national news media. The national news media have become co-owned by the movie studios. Therefore, the movie studios get to frame the discussion any way they want [pineight.com] .

Re:Textbook companies are horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291659)

In Canada, one element of textbook copyrights is the destruction of a digital textbook after a certain number of uses or years. I'm beginning to wonder if a fireman is going to come around and destroy all the textbooks I've accumulated over the years.

Re:Textbook companies are horrible (1)

CanEHdian (1098955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292433)

You're forgetting that like the rest of the government, education seems to be heavily controlled by the copyright cartels. How the hell did we let these people get this much money and power?

Because we've been giving our money to these people for over 80 years.Not to the artists. To the guy in the middle. Of course they are going to protect themselves: it's way too lucrative where they are.

There's only ONE thing politicians need more than "campaign donations": votes. Unfortunately, in the US electoral system (first past the post) and the SuperPACs etc, this is going to be hard. But at one point the Internet generations will outnumber the previous generations...

drm (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291073)

Ok, so textbooks have DRM now, and education takes place in an MMO
style arena. So where are the cheat codes? Har. Anyway it's a format most kids
relate to.

"Hey you, stop texting in class!"

For Shame (1)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291077)

All that illegal learning kids are doing these days. How dare they steal all of that information you own that someone else discovered!

Re:For Shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291121)

The course I teach uses an online key (Turing's Craft). Obligatory: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Re:For Shame (1)

Dr. Tom (23206) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291185)

Control the means of delivery and you control the content. We don't want students wandering aimlessly around the internet, after all, learning things like evolution and climate science.

Re:For Shame (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291247)

Exactly what I thought -- as soon as I saw the phrase, "unauthorized access to textbooks," I knew something was wrong. Of course, from the publisher's perspective, and unfortunately from too many schools' perspective, the purpose of textbooks is to make money for publishing companies.

We need a better way to distribute knowledge, one that is not based on maximizing the profit of people who have every incentive to restrict the flow of knowledge.

Sounds like Webassign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291087)

It sounds like webassign (for math and physics). You have to buy a key to get access to the website which has your homework. Everyone has the same structured problems, but all the numbers are different. Grading is done instantly when you submit your answer. Students hate it and I would loudly and actively refuse any such system that expanded on it.

But I also don't understand how linking some software components is an invention.

Wow. (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291125)

There's not a single professor I know that would go for this. Especially the "web discussion" part being graded. It seems like a backdoor for publishers to try to co-opt or even replace the professors over time. "Don't hire a professor, sign a contract with us, we'll provide textbooks, grades, tests, the works, all you'll have to do is admin the system on your end."

"Cloud Classrooms", if you will.

Several professors do like the WebAssign style online homework systems, but only because TAs are at a premium in my area.

Fortunately them patenting it means that in effect it will kill the chances of it being used en mass.

Professors have a reason (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291133)

They do have a reason; kickbacks.

1/2 the processors wrote the damned text book, so they have a vested interest in making student buy copies.

As someone who just finished graduate school... (1)

mongoose(!no) (719125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291155)

I hated this, and only encountered it once, in my Econ 102 class. We had to "buy" the online pass to view the online "textbook", which was really just a document wrapped in a flash applet, with "interactive" homeworks, that expired after 6 months. I asked the professor if he had another alternative, but he said I could always drop the class. Thankfully that was the only class I had to do that for.

Most other professors, especially within engineering were more than helpful with either giving out the ISBN so we didn't have to go through the bookstore, or in graduate school, had their own notes for the class, so a book wasn't even necessary. One class we were assigned two books that were available as PDFs from the authors, intentionally to be given away, which the professor pointed out. Thankfully in my engineering classes the professors have been helpful about allowing older editions of books or having a low cost alternative such as a compilation of notes. In my general education classes is where I've always encountered the incredibly expensive books that absolutely had to be the latest edition. I think it says something that the engineering books tended to hold up their value more than the books for those other classes, where a $130 english book ended up going back to the bookstore for $1.30. The engineering books were usually worth keeping too, once you got past the intro courses.

Oh, and the point I came here to make: Having a patent on an idea doesn't make it a good one.

Re:As someone who just finished graduate school... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291177)

I hated this, and only encountered it once, in my Econ 102 class. We had to "buy" the online pass to view the online "textbook", which was really just a document wrapped in a flash applet, with "interactive" homeworks, that expired after 6 months. I asked the professor if he had another alternative, but he said I could always drop the class.

Which i would have done, and perhaps even picketed outside the classroom.

Re:As someone who just finished graduate school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291387)

Try saying that when it is a critical class, and transferring to another university would be far greater in time and expense.

Part of college is handling what the profs shit out in order to get that piece of paper. If people don't realize that, they are the ones without the degree.

Re:As someone who just finished graduate school... (1)

CanEHdian (1098955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292479)

I asked the professor

Look at you... even now sheltering "the professor". Name and shame, my friend; name and shame.

We are already doing this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291187)

I just finished 15 years of teaching at a state community & technical college and in the computer field we are shifting away from printed books to on-line material that is less expensive but does require an access code. The access code is good for three years which should be fine because by that time, a lot of the technical material will be out of date, obsolete, and archived somewhere on the web.

We are doing this for two reasons: Less cost for the student and more on-line availability. The platform provides video, audio, and printed material that is tied to industry standard curricula as well as kept up to date with most applicable certification tests. It was getting tough to find reasonably priced text books, even on-line, that taught that stuff currently being tested by CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, etc...

Our students currently desire more on-line material. This enables them to make more efficient use of their time in today's networked world. It also allows us to reduce the "seat time" in some courses, freeing up scarce hardware-oriented labs for more hands-on learning. For a four credit course instead of sitting for four hours a week, they sit for maybe two hours a week and spend two hours working on practical applications with an instructor in a lab. They make up the other two hours per week of "lecture" time by going through the on-line stuff.

On the other hand, at the four-year state university in the same town, many professors are not going this route because they wrote the text books that they "recommend" students purchase for their courses. Being a state school, they are not allowed to require their own products, but students all know that if they want to find the material that will be covered in quizzes, tests, etc... they had better buy the prof's book. With all the work that it takes to put a course on-line, I doubt if these old geezers will go that route anytime soon.

If I can find material that covers all three main learning styles (watching/listening/reading) consistently and for a reasonable price, why reinvent the wheel or write a new textbook? The package we are currently using runs about $90, or $30 per year of use. Not too bad...

This seems strangely familiar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291197)

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

Yeah; that'd be it...

Professorss care about learning, not about profits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291199)

Speaking as a professor in engineering, we care about learning. The books chosen for a course are ones we think are best for that course. Unfortunately they are expensive. Professors who write books get paid very little (except maybe unless the book sells many many many copies) but the bookstores and publishers are the ones that make all the money. We would love to have *good* free online books but so far there have not been any in my field that are even worth trying to use. We also care about the cost to students but as there are few good book choices we are pretty much stuck with the available ones, despite the high price.

Re:Professorss care about learning, not about prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291281)

why do you need the books in the first place? you are there to teach, not be a bridge between student and publisher. your lectures and any visuals you provide ought to be the only thing needed. is the system that broken?

Re:Professorss care about learning, not about prof (1)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291833)

ROFL

Oh. You were serious.

A Patent for this? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291231)

I know that textbooks were selling(shrink wrapped, of course, with some sort of clickwrap EULA sticker) with a code printed inside that granted limited-term access to some sort of online component when I was in undergrad. And that was a vexing number of years ago. Thankfully, none of the professors actually bothered with the enforcement side of that bullshit; but the groundwork was all there and ready to go. Never mind the, less academic but no less trivially equivalent, emerging practice of selling crippled games along with various 'unlock codes' to deter the used game market.

Not only as this 'invention' in the worst spirit of trampling-on-right-of-first-sale scumsucking, it isn't even remotely novel...

if the teachers are good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291267)

then the lectures and any visuals they provide should be plenty.

Excerpt is incorrect... (1)

twebb72 (903169) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291371)

"a system and method ... that aligns the interests of teaching professionals, [strike]students,[/strike] and publishers"

FTFY.

The Right to Read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291383)

Ah, at last, the future is now.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

When Will Publishers Get It? (4, Interesting)

Dr_Ish (639005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291557)

This seems typical of the world of publishing today. Many publishers are merely money making machines, with little regard for either students, or knowledge. Unfortunately, as publishers adopt more and more predatory practices, they end up pissing off both students and professors. There is one major academic publisher in my field Cengage (who operate under many other names), whose books I now refuse to use. They update editions every three years, doing little more than changing page numbers and changing the order of exercises. Each new edition comes with a substantial price hike and force me to rework sections of my classes. The result of this? I now have the equivalent of an on-line text I have developed myself over the years. So, they have lost the business.

It is the very same publishing houses who are mean about sending us desk copies and charge us for them, if we do not adopt their texts. Again, they end up as losers, as there is no incentive to use their texts. They also get pissy when we sell the books that they send to us, without our asking. This again is silly. In the State in which I teach, professors have not had a pay rise in four years, so a few bucks to buy lunch was a welcome perk. Stopping this perk does not make us like them any more.

That being said, not all publishers are like this. Some keep their editions for a long time and do not change much when they bring out new editions. A good example of this is Oxford University Press. So, when I need to use a text for a class, all the business goes to OUP. This is the correct way to do business in publishing. It should not be about quarterly results, but rather about building and maintaining long term relationships. The technological innovation described in the post is just yet another step in the wrong direction. Eventually though, publishers will have to work out the errors of their ways, or perish./p

One of these things does not belong (0)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291703)

A) a system and method preventing unauthorized access to copyrighted academic texts

B) while also enhancing the overarching academic mission to create and disseminate knowledge

So they are trying to spread knowledge, by not allowing access to knowledge?

I believe one, if not both, of those things does not mean what they think it means.

USPTO cleanup (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291801)

rm -f `grep "system and method" `find /media/patents``

government should be working to make books cheap (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291819)

a highly educated workforce trumps any short term profits greed book makers can make. The fact that many subjects like Calculus have not changed in a very long time should make them at cost for printing the material. If book makers are not willing to do this then maybe the government should, it is in the countries interest.

Sometimes a patent can be good. (2)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#40291841)

Since patents are used to limit the number of people who can do something, having a patent on something stupid will lead to limitations on the number of people doing said stupid thing.

The alternative is said stupid thing being a freely available technique that can be implemented at any time by anyone at no cost.

Prior art - this isn't new (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40291879)

Anyone who has used Clifton's Strengths Finder knows that each book has a unique code in it that ties to an account on the Strengths Finder web site. What nobody has mentioned yet is that this also kills the second hand textbook market - the codes are useless to subsequent purchasers.

Re:Prior art - this isn't new (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292515)

this is simply one-time use serial numbers with a form of online activation -- as is already done with many video games and such use predates this bullshit patent's filing date.

also... books are meant to be *shared*.. and borrowed, and lent, and resold... these are fundamental rights of first sale. so suck on that, mr. vogel. forcing each student to buy their own (new) book (or 'secret code' found in said new book) should be illegal.

it's bad enough when textbooks get "revised" every year and profs (or the department, or the school.. whoever is getting the kickback or royalties or other 'perks') "require" the latest one -- limiting options for obtaining the correct text on the used market... but this new patent is complete shit.

and finally, wouldn't surprise me at all if publishers using this shit patent's methods used their special forums' TOS to grant themselves license to all user-contributed content their own use.

Already predicted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292067)

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

In Canada... (1)

ForgedArtificer (1777038) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292073)

This has already been going on in Canada for years.

The last time I was in college, almost all of my courses required a textbook with one of these codes. You did have the option to buy the codes separately, but the codes alone cost $50-100.

Students rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292197)

I hope the patent is really broad, so that everytime a professor requires buying a textbook for a course they risk being slapped with a patent suit.

What about printed text books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40292539)

This is what we used to do to beat these greedy book publishers. Four or five of us would pool the money required to buy one copy of the book and tear it into that many pieces on the very first day. Hey, we are learning Computer Science and why not practice that parallel processing?

Few incentives (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292579)

Professors have few incentives [...]

Until the book is written by that particular professor, who then requires its purchase in order to pass the class the professor is teaching.

Happens all the time in US universities, so in some cases there is a financial incentive for the professor to require the purchase of a particular book.

Hmm... Bad, but... (1)

Lancer873 (2602737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292631)

One the one hand, this is now a thing, and that sucks, hard. On the other, now it's patented, which means that, hopefully, only a handful of books will have this.

Right to Read (4, Informative)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292765)

Not that I'm otherwise a huge fan of RMS, but I'm surprised I haven't seen any reference to the "Right to Read" in this discussion yet. Given the direction US copyright and education are going, it gets scarily closer every day.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [gnu.org]

Re:Right to Read (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#40292773)

Oops, somehow had browsing set to 1, hence not seeing the couple ACs who posted the link...

Doh.

expensive book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40293067)

why is it the a C/C++ book cost a mere $3 in India - while the same C/C++ book cost over $41 in US ?

I bet to you that same C/C++ book cost around $3 in China too!!

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