Yet Another Sign of the Apocalypse Appears in Recent Copyright Battles

Chalk up another victory up for the Society to Halt All Innovation and Change in Education. Someone said that teachers using videos in online classes at UCLA was illegal, so they had to shut all videos down.  Even though these videos were used the exact same way that they were being legally used in face-to-face courses. So I ask: why is the same video clip and the same usage legal in face-to-face classes, but illegal in the same online course? Well, I now have to print one of the saddest, most ignorant quotes I have heard in a long while:

the trade group is arguing that a password-protected space on the Web is not a classroom

Give me a second to remove my palm from my forehead. Welcome to the 1800’s folks. We can’t grow or change our definitions of anything. Online classes: learning takes place there, students are there, instructors are there, content is there, but by golly…. it is not a classroom because there isn’t a door or even a single brick!

I can probably go online and find a free, illegal copy of any movie in the theaters now in about 5 minutes or so and the sites that would help me do that will still be here next week. But an instructor tries to use a clip of an old movie to teach (and inspires a few students to go out and buy that movie from my experience)… and they are clamped down on brutally.

I dream of a day when we get the idiots out of education and legal policy and make it actually desirable to be a teacher.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

Cracking down on Textbook Torrents

Ars Technica and The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today about the torrent site Textbook Torrents‘ removal of several files after receiving a request from academic publisher Pearson Education.

“On Friday, we received a request from Pearson Education, one of the bigger textbook publishers, listing 78 torrents that they wanted disabled. While they are acting on extremely shaky legal ground, we are not in a position to fight a legal battle with the organization. As a result, in the interest of allowing the continued existence of this place, I have acceded to their request and disabled access to the listed torrents.”

It’s been a while since I’ve had to purchase textbooks, so I was initially surprised to hear that there were torrents of scanned textbook files; however, (and I am in no way justifying the practice) it makes complete sense. Textbooks are *incredibly* expensive. Selling back your used books is infuriatingly unprofitable. Scanners are cheap. And students are angry.

While sharing textbooks is more time-intensive than sharing media files, site owners are promoting this as a service to students, and encourage them to “give back”. Taken from Textbook Torrents’ rules page:

  • If you have saved enough money by using this site (say, $200 worth of textbooks), please go out and buy a scanner. Scan as many of your other textbooks as you can, and put them up here for others to benefit from. There aren’t very many scanned texts out there, so let’s change that.
  • If you have found all your texts on the tracker (lucky dog), you can afford to buy a text that you don’t need specifically for the purpose of sharing, or borrow one from a friend. Think about how much money you would have been wasting if it hadn’t been for your fellow members.
  • If you have not found anything of use here and have to buy all your books, please think of your fellow students. Devote an evening or two to scanning some of the texts you have on hand to ensure that future students will not be in the same position as you were. Karma will pay you back, sooner or later.

This looks to be an issue we’re going to hear more about. While Textbook Torrent seems to be the major go-to resource for free textbooks, it is by far not the only place. Go to any torrent site and search for “textbook”, and hundreds of files come up. Just since the story about Textbook Torrents came out, other torrent sites are taking notice.

How is this going to change textbooks? Will we soon be able to go to Amazon.com and buy individual chapters (DRM-protected, of course) to download? Just have to wait and see.

Katrina Adams
Howdy folks! I’m an Instructional Designer at UT Dallas. I have a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Angelo State University and a Master’s in Computer Education and Cognitive Systems from the University of North Texas. I’ve been working in edtech for 11 years. Hmm… what else? I’m a *huge* fan of that little Irish band called U2, and I’m a bigtime Firefly/Serenity advocate.