College Professors Have to Steal Books The Old-Fashioned Way (Copy Machines), Judge Rules

Senior Contributor
05.15.12 3 Comments

If you went to college, inevitably, you got stacks of handouts photocopied straight out of a published work. Technically, that’s illegal, but nobody ever questioned it; hey, the professor just saved you from buying a $45 book.

The digital equivalent of that are “e-reserves,” and it’s something the textbook industry is hugely nervous about, what with the fact that it doesn’t require students to pay $1000 or more for books each semester, and that’s not fair to them. So they sued, specifically Georgia State University, to force them to at least use a photocopier, for Pete’s sake, so somebody sees some cash out of the deal.

The really sad thing is that there’s literally no money in this:

For academic work, the financial rewards are minimal. Articles, which can take months to write and research, generally earn no money at all; revenue on most academic books, many professors have told me, is large enough only to pay for a dinner out once or twice a year.

Even for the publishers in the case, the money made from licensing excerpts is small. If you throw corporate licensing into the mix, it accounted for less than one percent of their revenue in 2009. Limit the analysis to academic work, and such licensing revenue accounted for just one quarter of one percent of revenue.

They were literally just suing to be suing, and this case took four years to settle. In the end, it’s fairly straightforward: you can’t copy more than ten percent of the book online, you can’t make money off of it, you can’t do it with fiction, and it has to be for academic purposes.

In short, photocopier companies will continue their terrible pirate reign on the academic seas.

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