Canadian University, Publisher Promise To Fix Problems With Art History Book That Has No Photos

from the a-bit-late,-but... dept

You may recall the story we had earlier this week about Canadian University OCAD requiring students in an art history class to buy a $180 book that didn't even have any images, because they couldn't properly license them. Instead, it had big white boxes and students were expected to go online to see the right images. Beyond the ridiculousness of the situation itself, it was clear that there would be no resale value at all for the book.

OCAD got in touch to let us know that they've now put out a statement on the situation (pdf) in which they admit that the situation was far from ideal, and they're taking steps to deal with it. The dean claims to have met with the publisher, Pearson, who "was highly responsive." That's not too surprising, given just how much attention that original story got. They must have sensed that being on the wrong side of this one would not end well. The plan now:
  • Guaranteed end-of-term buy-back of the custom text (dollar amount to be announced next week); they want to take it out of circulation.
  • Provision (free) of print copies of the Stokstad text (which contains the vast majority of missing images) to all students who have purchased the reader, to use as a print-based cross-reference; these would be the relevant volumes of the portable version of Stokstad (much easier to carry) – details on how this will roll out next week.
The pricing on the buyback may still be a concern, but clearly the loud outcry and vast internet interest in the situation resulted in the university and the publisher deciding that this whole thing was a mistake. They probably should have realized that before pushing an art history book that had no images, but at least they're trying to make it right.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 3:43pm

    Fuck them. The only reason they are looking into it is because of the publicity on this issue. The 'buy-back' better be full cost of the book too.

     

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    sehlat (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    There is NO way to "make it right."

    The fact that they tried this stunt at all removes any semblance of credibility from their actions.

    They are not repenting sinners, they're criminals sorry they got caught.

     

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    McFortner (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 3:59pm

    Bookstores

    If I remember how bookstores worked when I was in college in the 90s, they will get back about $1.25 if the book is still in good condition.

     

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    Beech, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:06pm

    No resale?

    No resale value? I figured buyers would be lined up around the corner to get their hands on a genuine piece of actual factual copyright stupidity made into a physical form!

    Heck, I would spend some sweet cash on that to show to my kids/grandkids. Either after the revolution to show "how dumb copyright got" or in corporate slavery to show "this was how it all began...you know, however it turns out.

     

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      Michael, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:55am

      Re: No resale?

      I agree.

      I would certainly pay some money to have this particular art history book on my coffee table.

      Of course, I am assuming that this is the only published art history book that does not have pictures. Considering the lunacy of copyright laws, this could have already happened hundreds of times and we just haven't heard about it.

       

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    PlagueSD (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:22pm

    It's an art book...They put those blank boxes there for the students to practice drawing!!!


    Think of the child...err students!!!

     

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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:24pm

    better than nothing...

    the thing is, it is difficult enough for most stories of people being screwed over a million different ways to get through the korporate-media filter/gatekeeper function...

    *however*, due to both the power of the inertnet, *and* the collective response of people, *sometimes* even small injustices, and other incidents of unfair korporate behavior come to light, and *sometimes* The They (tm) blink...

    *that* is why The They (tm) want to lock down the inertnet, and all communications; that is why The People must be stopped, it smacks of... of... of freedom ! ! !

    it doesn't matter if 99% of us want a change, WE are NOT 'in charge'... the dem'rats and rethugs kabuki theater is what we are allowed to watch; that is inconsequential...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 10:05pm

      Re: better than nothing...

      yes, and you 99% still run like fools in to the old system, all for the ancient love of money.......

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    But now how will students learn about Michelangelo's great masterpiece, "Broken Link"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 4:49pm

    An art book with no photos? That's about as silly as a singer performing a concert at a school for the deaf.

     

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    Brent Ashley (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:35pm

    Momentum

    I am very pleased that OCAD has responded with real proposed solutions to the problem. They have also called for another open discussion next week.

    As much as I'm often cynical, in my telephone call with the Dean I did not detect any spin or disingenuous tone.

    Out of this issue, we have proposed short term solutions and open discussion about educational resources and their costs.

    Let's celebrate the progress we've made and engage to keep it going so longer term solutions can be found.

     

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      Brent Ashley (profile), Sep 21st, 2012 @ 5:36pm

      Re: Momentum

      I meant to say we have received from the school proposed solutions.

       

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        James, Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 4:36am

        Re: Re: Momentum

        Brent, who is the copyright holder that the school is dealing with? Any word on whose the culprit behind demanding crazy prices for public domain images?

         

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          Brent Ashley (profile), Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 9:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Momentum

          It turns out it's not as simple as it seems at first. For the benefit of all, here are some things that have become clear to me this week.

          Copyright isn't where the expense lies, it's Licensing.

          If you want photos of public domain art works that are of high enough quality for print publication, you have a few choices.

          1) You can send a photographer out to take photos of each work. Many will be in museums and will require negotiating a photography session with the museum. One reason is that the light used in high power flashes for this quality of photo has a high UV content and over time will contribute to deterioration of the work, so they limit access.

          This is very expensive and time-consuming, but you will get high quality photos.

          2) You can find a photographer or organization who has done #1 themselves or has bought the rights to license images from other photographers.

          This will get you the quality photos, and save you some money.

          3) You can try to source photos that have open and free licenses. While there are some organizations who are collecting such images (e.g. googleartproject.com, art.sy, and others), there is not a deep well of these resources, so your experience will result in a lot of searching and varied quality.

          As you can see, #2 is optimal among these (possibly not exhaustive) choices.

          When you want to get photos for your book, you pay a license fee to the person who can provide you with the high-quality source material. They calculate it based on a number of factors, one of which is the quality of the final images - i.e. it's cheaper to license a bunch of images to be presented in thumbnail or screen form than in full resolution.

          If you print and sell 10,000 copies of your book, the cost component of the licensing is distributed much more thinly than if you have a limited run of 500 books. You have a choice of whether to present pictures in full, thumbnail, or online, or a combination. The choices made in this case resulted in a product that did not meet the needs of the audience (understated, I know, but that's the bottom line).

          What this all comes down to is that once the logistics of producing a book are considered, it's apparent that there is no one entity in the chain demanding excessive profits. It's just the economics of a high quality small print run in play here, and then the design decisions that came out of that.

          So far the response of the school and the publisher has been very positive and I'm optimistic that a much better solution will come out of this episode. Open dialogue has been spawned and the wider issues of copyright, licensing and the spiralling cost of a university education have been subjected to very public review and criticism.

          Thanks to the students who started the petition, and TechDirt who provided a platform for wide recognition, this story promises to have as happy an ending as one could hope for.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 10:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Momentum

            Excellent explanation, thank you.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2012 @ 8:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Momentum

            "You have a choice of whether to present pictures in full, thumbnail, or online, or a combination. The choices made in this case resulted in a product that did not meet the needs of the audience"

            So they went entirely with the Go Look It Up Online option and this is why the book with no pictures cost $180 ????
            Let me guess, one needs to setup an account to view the pix which is only possible via purchase of the book - and all previously available material was removed from the library. This is a publishers wet dream.


            ..... it's apparent that there is no one entity in the chain demanding excessive profits. It's just the economics of a high quality small print run in play here, and then the design decisions that came out of that."

            I find this excuse to be somewhat lacking. Clearly there is a get rich quick scam in play and the attempt to rationalize makes it even worse. I doubt this scenario is isolated to Art History books at one particular university, rather it is a trend which will be seen across all areas of study and not just at places of higher learning.

             

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            Seegras (profile), Sep 24th, 2012 @ 6:59am

            Licenses

            I'd like to recap this from a slightly different perspective:

            This isn't "Licensing" at all, because the subject lacks a property -- being subject to copyright -- to make "licensing" even an option.

            We're talking about

            a) Service. Somebody makes quality photographs of public domain 2D-Art for you.

            b) A private contract, in which you agree to give certain compensation (and maybe agree to not use your rights pertaining said material) in exchange to these services.

            Evidently, this does not infringe on YOUR rights granted by copyright. You upload the photographs to wikimedia commons, as "public domain" and from this point on everybody will have high quality pictures of that art. However, you might open yourself to a "breach of contract"-lawsuit. This will be entirely your problem. Wikimedia and the public still keep the images, because they did not have any contract...

            Still, no matter what the contractor wishes it to be, he does NOT have any copyright on public domain two-dimensional art.

            Which brings me to the second point: Of course everyone and their lawyers claim copyrights IN SPITE of not having them. I call this fraud.

            And even worse: The publisher in the above case was so indoctrinated by this propaganda, he automatically tried to clear the rights, without realizing that there are no exclusive rights by anyone on copies of two-dimensional public domain art. Instead he could have just copied them out of Stokstad (if of sufficient quality).

             

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    ch'kody (profile), Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 4:41am

    it reminds me...

    I realize it's not the same but this reminds me of those days when software was released (bugs and all) just to get it out. Release a patch afterwards.

     

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    Tammy, Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 10:56am

    Crazy!

    It is impossibly crazy to be an art student at OCADU. The fees keep on increasing and the value doesn't really keep pace. A mandatory $180 book makes no sense at all. Somebody is making profit from these students. The white pages telephone book is printed for free. OCADU should have been representing the students, trying to get a good deal for them not having a hand in their pockets all the time trying to pry as much as they can from these poor kids' pockets. Making the book mandatory shows that OCADU is really wanting some money here. It all stinks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2012 @ 1:31pm

    "vast internet interest "

    and I haven't seen this mentioned at all from our corrupt, purely self interested, mainstream media. What a story and no mention. Amazing.

    Abolish govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopolies. Abolish the FCC. Govt established broadcasting and cableco monopolies are in violation of the first amendment, they are a govt imposition that's effectively being used to censor speech in the sole interests of corporate entities.

     

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      abc gum, Sep 23rd, 2012 @ 8:34am

      Re:

      "Abolish govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopolies"

      I'm curious, how does one abolish a monopoly?


      "Abolish the FCC"

      Now you sound like a teabag nutter

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2012 @ 3:42pm

        Re: Re:

        "...how does one abolish a monopoly?". Seriously, you have to ask?
        "Nutter" is a term generally used by the British. You don't hear very many Americans using it. Are you British? If so, note that a government agency which tells us that certain words or images cannot be broadcast runs contrary to the freedom of speech and press we are SUPPOSED to have over here.

         

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          abc gum, Sep 24th, 2012 @ 8:20am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "...how does one abolish a monopoly?". Seriously, you have to ask?"

          No, I didn't have to ask - but it is a reasonable question.

          Many monopolies exist, most of them are services subject to government regulation like power water and sewer. These monopolies exist in their present form for many reasons, some of which actually make sense. One does not simply "abolish" public utilities.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2012 @ 7:35pm

    Why don't the students turn this into an interesting art project and fill in the boxes with interpretations of the originals, perhaps following a theme? I'd pay more than $180 for a well done one.

     

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