What Kind Of Professor Patents A Way To Make It More Expensive & More Difficult For Students To Learn?

from the insanity dept

Torrentfreak has the story of an economics professor (of all things) who has apparently received a patent on a way to try to force students to buy expensive textbooks. The professor, Joseph Henry Vogel, is positioning this patent (8,195,571) as an “anti-piracy” technique, though it appears that it works equally well in preventing students from sharing a single textbook or merely checking the textbook out of the library. The details of the patent are hardly new or innovative either. The basics are that the class has both a textbook and an online discussion board — and buying the textbook provides you a code that allows you to enter the discussion board. In theory, you could also just buy the code.

There’a all sorts of idiocy involved in this situation. Let’s just separate out a few examples:

  1. How the hell does something like this get patented in the first place? There is a tremendous amount of prior art in the form of things like “one-time” use codes for video games and other digital offerings to limit the used sales market. And yet this still gets approved? USPTO examiner James D. Nigh should be ashamed for letting this piece of garbage get approved.
  2. The claims here (the patent only has four) are so broad and so general, I don’t see how it passes the non-obvious test, nor how it is anything more than mashing together a few different things that are widely available already and have been for years. After the KSR ruling the USPTO was supposed to reject broad patents that just combined basic concepts already found in the market.
  3. How could a professor of economics actually think that locking up access to information is a good idea? That alone would make me avoid any class that he taught, as his understanding of information economics is way, way off.
  4. It’s sad that anyone in academia would think that this is a good idea. In an age where Harvard and MIT are investing a ton into opening up access, this guy is focused on locking it down.

The whole thing is extraordinary for how bad of an idea it is — and the fact that a patent was actually issued on this only compounds the ridiculousness.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “What Kind Of Professor Patents A Way To Make It More Expensive & More Difficult For Students To Learn?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
126 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Patents are extremely powerful as a tool for economic control and the government has shown no signs of lessening that control, as well as every sign of increasing that control by forcing the police forces and judiciary bodies of the country to act as the personal securty force of IP trolls. Sadly, his economic understanding is bang on. A few years too late, but so’s pretty much every other economist.

Anonymous Coward says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

Scientific textbooks are really expensive, take lots of time to write and are sold in relatively small quantities relative to other types of books. Due to their cost, these books are prime candidate to be ripped off. Why you express surprise that this guy is trying to do something to make textbook writing attractive, is a mystery. Forget sharing. How about considering whether infringing doesn’t simply kill off an entire market segment. Glad to see this guy get a patent and hope that it helps.

MrWilson says:

“There is a tremendous amount of prior art in the form of things like “one-time” use codes for video games and other digital offerings to limit the used sales market.”

You don’t even have to go outside the realm of education. There are already plenty of textbook and educational software publishers who do this very thing. Look at Pearson’s My[insert topic here]Lab or WebSAM or any number of other ones. Students will buy used textbooks online only to have to spend almost the entire amount of the cost of a new textbook to get the code from the publisher.

sehlat (profile) says:

Been Covered

http://www.economicnoise.com/2012/04/12/prostitution-education-and-the-future/

In the last 2,500 years there are only two professions that have not changed in terms of their delivery of services ? prostitution and education. The first is understandable, the second is not.

In other words, another legacy industry trying to survive by abusing both the law and the customers.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

As a faculty member myself I was horrified when I first read of this patent. And I was horrified on multiple levels. First, the patent itself was absurd and I couldn’t figure out on earth it made it through the patent system. Second, I spend fair amount of time each semester trying to make textbooks cheaper for my students.

Just today I finally convinced another instructor to use a book published through Lulu. The textbook is as good or better than the alternative being pushed by another faculty member, and the Lulu text is literally 30% of the price of the alternative.

MrWilson says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

Or, you know, (full time, benefited) instructors who are supposed to be subject matter experts in their fields can write their own textbooks as works for hire as a part of their well-paid positions so the text exists for other instructors to use in their courses as well at the institution or maybe even peer-sourced with other instructors to develop an open source text that all can contribute to and modify for their own purposes to keep costs down for students and break the death-grip that publishing companies have on educational costs that perpetuate the debt cycle that is ruining our society for anyone without assets greater than several million dollars…

MrWilson says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

That would be a good platform for it, though, unfortunately, a lot of instructors in non-computer-related departments (and sadly, some in computer-related departments) aren’t savvy enough or interested enough to use such a platform. It would have to be a proclamation from a dean or a college president, and sometimes they’re the oldest and least inclined to embrace newer technologies, even if such technologies are being taught by the college in their computer information or computer science programs.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

I think AC’s basic point is that you need books to be expensive to give author’s an incentive to write them. Since this is AC, he probably means that the books need to be high-price and available through traditional publishers. The truth of the matter is, most textbook authors who go through traditional publishers get very little money from textbooks. Very, very little. Occasionally you may have a jackpot book that is widely adopted, but the AC is talking about upper level science courses where wide adoption is almost impossible because of the limited audience. Most of the benefits of publishing come indirectly from the prestige associated with publishing.

Efforts like Lulu provide a much different environment. Lulu makes self-publication relatively easy. The author gets a much larger cut of the profit and the prices for students are much lower. Everyone except the traditional publishers and over-priced college bookstores win.

The other thing that I have found about Lulu books is that there tends to be much more of a community around the Lulu books than the ones from major publishers. You tend to get authors and educators using the book together, and everyone benefits here too. Lulu has been around long enough that some books are now in second and third editions. You can see that there is major improvement because of community input. It is also interesting that the authors of the book tend to change from one edition to the next as different members of the community take responsibility for developing the textbook and keeping it current.

College textbooks may become a classic case of a traditional business pricing itself out of the market and creating an entrance for disruptive technologies.

Anonymous Coward says:

obviously getting money from students buying the books is much more important to him than teaching them or even having them attend his classes. with a bit of luck, this will backfire on him in a big way.

as for the guy that issued the patent, what the hell was he thinking? he needs to be patented himself, damn quick, as a complete twat!

Beta (profile) says:

So bad it might...

The same thought occurred to me: maybe he intends to lock down this horrible idea, not for his own profit, but so that no instructors can do this to their students.

What a great idea! (It’s a great idea even if it isn’t what he actually has in mind.) If you’re the first to think of something really contrary to the advancement of civilization, you can patent it and prevent it from being put into production. Whole branches of DRM technology could be rendered purely academic. Anti-anonymity technology could be relegated to pure CS theory where it belongs. Just imagine if someone had thought to patent Monsanto’s loathsome genetically modified seeds before Monsanto did. We could have national grants for the most appalling ideas to be patented and mothballed, and breath a world-wide sigh of relief every time someone nipped a real stinker in the bud. All the shameful laxness of the Patent Office could be turned into a fore for good. Promote the progress, indeed!

Jeremy2020 (profile) says:

I e-mailed him a note that professors should encourage students to share information and this is his response:

“Please find a common response to the voluminous emails I received regarding my
patent. Most of the students were ?outraged?, ?disgusted?, and used
abusive and even threatening language. I believe education is formation of
character and so I shall respond. Many misperceptions exist about the role of
patents in textbook publishing and also about me and my own work. My hope is
that one can engage in civil debate with an open mind to change one?s
opinion when presented with logic and evidence. Please contemplate:

Research-active universities do not reward professors for publishing textbooks
yet many top professors have written textbooks. One can only assume the
motivation WAS monetary. My example of Paul A. Samuelson and the 19 editions
of ECONOMICS is indeed classic. With rampant piracy, the best and brightest
will no longer publish textbooks and the students will suffer from inferior
quality textbooks.

Open access is indeed a good idea for scholarly cutting-edge work as
professors want their work read. But as per (1), scholarly cutting-edge work
does not include textbooks.

De facto open access of textbooks will extinguish the Publishing industry from
producing top-rate textbooks and an analog can be found with open access of
genetic resources of which I can profess some expertise. I have written
extensively about ?biopiracy? and ?biofraud? by the US pharmaceutical
companies and how habitat conservation is undermined in the biodiverse tropics
(and US National Parks). Let?s also be clear that I earn nothing from these
publications and copy and paste some recent scholarly publications here. I
have also maxed out from any sort of career advancement at my institution. I
invented the patented system largely for the same reason that I research and
publish: the challenge and joy of puzzle-solving.

The patent requires that students participate in Discussion Boards. I think
this is a good idea especially today when most students do not know the
majority of students in their class. Since the time of the Socrates,
discussion has been the enabler of learning. The requirement to adopt the
Discussion Board fosters such learning. Note well: no Publisher is forcing any
professor?s hand to adopt their book under the patented system. However, a
professor cannot adopt the Publishers?s book, let it be pirated, and then
not subscribe to the Publisher?s Discussion Board that guarantees a payment
for use of the Publisher?s textbook. The billion-dollar firm Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt has recently filed Chapter 11 of bankruptcy. Others will
follow suit.

Students of low income should apply for the US Federal Pell Grant which is
means-tested. As owner of the patent, I want Publishers to waive the fee for
students who present evidence of the Pell Grant. As such, the patent greatly
benefits students of low income. Today, some low income students are put in
moral dilemma to pirate or not attend university. My patent directly helps
them.

As Publishers capture fees from pirated downloads and the used book market,
the price of textbooks will fall for students who are not on the Pell Grant.

Ironically, the patent encourages free access to textbooks for self-taught
students (no need to access a Discussion Board). Publishers will have no
reason to encrypt textbooks and, I suspect, many will even put them on line.
So, the textbooks in their latest edition become valuable resources for the
self-taught students and graduates.

Finally, what will happen to the royalties of the patent? Academic freedom is
under assault everywhere. Half the royalty income from the patent will
finance initiatives to promote academic freedom and is written into the
language of the patent in various Claims.

You need not agree. So please join blogs and elaborate reasoned responses to
my arguments. I hope I may have persuaded some of you that your initial
impression was indeed mistaken. If nothing else, I hope I have persuaded all
of you that abusive and threatening language undermines public support for
higher education. Arguments must be reasoned, politely.
Cheers, Joseph”

Anonymous Coward says:

Been Covered

Education is torn between the two horses:

1. The publishing industry and the economic benifit for the professor.
2. The will to educate.

For the most part professors are prepared to break the IP-laws to help goal 2 since goal 1 is such insignificant economic gains and such a nightmare to enforce.
Economy and legal are probably the only fields where some of the professors are pushing for goal number 1. Everywhere else, it is really an issue for the university library, rather than the students.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hate these type of textbooks. I have to buy a couple for online classes and the ones the come with codes are terrible for resell. My un-coded textbooks can be resold for about 75% of the cost I purchased them at. The coded books I might be able to resell at 5% if I am lucky. They are also usually more expensive to buy. The code is used for considerable more then a forum and include tools such as homework helper, video tutorials, etc and I do like those tools but the cost is killer. I don’t know how many students can afford college. I am just lucky I can work full time while in college so I won’t have nearly as large of a debt when I graduate.

Beta (profile) says:

Re:

“My hope is that one can engage in civil debate with an open mind to change one?s opinion when presented with logic and evidence.”

We are delighted to hear this, Professor, and I really hope you’re reading this blog.

In your second paragraph you write:
“Research-active universities do not reward professors for publishing textbooks yet many top professors have written textbooks. One can only assume the motivation WAS monetary.”

In response I quote your fourth paragraph:
“I have… maxed out from any sort of career advancement at my institution. I invented the patented system largely for the same reason that I research and publish: the challenge and joy of puzzle-solving.”

You go on to say:
“With rampant piracy, the best and brightest will no longer publish textbooks and the students will suffer from inferior quality textbooks.”

“Rampant piracy” will give the students access to the best textbooks that exist. Magically stopping piracy will restrict them to the horribly expensive books written by their merely average instructors (often released in a new, slightly modified edition every year to kill the second-hand market). According to your scheme it will prevent classmates from sharing a book, which is simply indefensible. And if you want to argue that the best minds in the field will be unable to make a substantial profit writing textbooks where there is copying, or that they would be unwilling to do so without such profit, you will have to present a much better argument, backed by real evidence.

This is getting about as long as a rebuttal comment should be, but I note that many of your further arguments about what you expect publishers to do with this new technology (e.g. yo expect them to lower the price of textbooks once they have an effective monopoly) look to me like wishful thinking at best, and astonishingly ill-informed.

Nigel (profile) says:

Way to cripple learning fucktard. This is up there with the lamest shit I have seen folks try to pull lately…

This is not about learning. This is about him trying to make a buck off the backs of starving students. Scumbag crap like this I expect from hollywood, from an educator…pfft. backlash coming 3…2….oh wait, he is already a full blown shithead.

N.

Nathan Gibson (profile) says:

Re:

And my response is “Horseshyte.” At best, he’s trying to force specific academic changes that cannot be forced upon people. At worst, he’s trying to gain a cut of those expensive textbook fees, which would only drive the price up further and drive more students and professors to alternative solutions.

Unless his goal is to further drive students and professors to alternative solutions by making the normal solution even more expensive – becoming the villain to allow others to be the hero. In that case, well played, sir – but I doubt this is the reason for his actions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I appreciate that he has taken the time to write something.
I deplore the lack of good arguments for taking a patent on this issue other than a wishywashy:

1. “We do not earn enough from publishing books so let us make the money through the education instead.”
2. “I have every good intention on how half of the money will be spend to create a better world.”

Basically his intentions for filing the patent is exactly because of what people attack him for: Own economic gain. His save the world idea is far from specific enough for him to have any real knowledge of what is needed to make it happen or even if it will ever happen…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“This is about him trying to make a buck off the backs of drunken students”

FTFY

Otherwise, I agree.
I actually hope he’s done it as a joke or perhaps as an opportunity to get people to debate but even if he did, we all know that the acronymic organisations are like creationists and cannot see sarcasm, irony or parody.

Nigel (profile) says:

“This is about him trying to make a buck off the backs of drunken students”

FTFY

Fair enough lol..

I just glanced over his retort again and found this:

“De facto open access of textbooks will extinguish the Publishing industry from producing top-rate textbooks”

Like the one I read in high school claiming Christopher Columbus discovered America. But, I reckon that is a chat for another day.

N.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“Rampant piracy” will give the students access to the best textbooks that exist.

How do you pirate what is not written? Did you not read what he said:

“With rampant piracy, the best and brightest will no longer publish textbooks and the students will suffer from inferior quality textbooks.”

Why would the best and brightest labor for years to write a book that they make no money on?

Anonymous Coward says:

The following is from the patent in question (quoting Kevin Kelly’s “Scan this book!”:

“Many methods have been employed to try to stop the indiscriminate spread of copies, including copy-protection schemes, hardware-crippling devices, education programs, even legislation, but all have proved ineffectual. The remedies are rejected by consumers and ignored by pirates. As copies have been dethroned, the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies lose value. They are no longer the basis of wealth.”

The economic repercussions of this paradise of freely flowing snippets are touched on with a beguiling offhandedness, as a matter of course, a matter of an inexorable Marxist unfolding. As the current economic model disappears, Kelly writes, the `basis of wealth` shifts to `relationships, links, connection and sharing.` Instead of selling copies of their work, writers and artists can make a living selling `performances, access to the creator, personalization, add-on information, the scarcity of attention (via ads), sponsorship, periodic subscriptions–in short, all the many values that cannot be copied. The cheap copy becomes the `discovery tool` that markets these other intangible values.` This is, as read, a pretty grisly scenario.”

Yes, imagine that–a world where creators and fans connect directly to each other to exchange and enjoy real value. Why is this grisly? Oh, right. Because it can only exist once the rapacious parasitic middlemen have been cut out of existence like the disgusting cancer and blight on humanity they truly are.

Bring on the surgery.

AdamF (profile) says:

Money corrupts

Money corrupts education and this is a perfect example. Personally, after 6 years of university, I strongly believe in open source educational materials. By spreading the task of preparing them, you open it up to all professors, most of whom do not have time to write even one full chapter per year. And by greatly simplifying publication, more excellent personal lecture notes would become widely accessible. The only good thing about this patent is that he may charge very high licensing fees and effectively bury this particular approach. Any chance of patenting the concept of for-profit educational material?

Beta (profile) says:

Re:

1) Yes, I read what he wrote; I just don’t agree with it.

2) You assume that an author cannot profit by writing a really good new textbook when there is a lot of copying going on. Are you new here?

3) You assume that no scientist capable of writing a really good new textbook that would be a big hit would be willing to do so if there weren’t a lot of money in it. I’m guessing you don’t hang out with scientists much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

2) You assume that an author cannot profit by writing a really good new textbook when there is a lot of copying going on. Are you new here?

I’m saying that the author shouldn’t be criticized for seeking to prevent the unlawful copying of his work. Is English not your first language.

3) You assume that no scientist capable of writing a really good new textbook that would be a big hit would be willing to do so if there weren’t a lot of money in it. I’m guessing you don’t hang out with scientists much.

Some may. But many likely will not. Some people are funny about seeking to be compensated for the expertise, knowledge and research they’ve dedicated their professional lives to. Certainly the pool of knowledge will be diminished, which by definition weakens the potential contribution to the understanding of that field.

My guess is that you don’t hang out with people whose livelihoods are dependent on creative output that is subject to the corrosive effect of piracy much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every now and then something comes along that rattles the collectivist mentality that permeates this blog. In this instance we have the joinder of, inter alia, patents, trademarks, copyrights, piracy, book publishers, a professor of economics, college textbooks, students, the net, social media, and software in a factual scenario highlighting that what is accepted here as almost an article of faith is not necessarily shared by others who do not appear to meet the pejorative classifications of “shill” and “maximalist”.

Predictably, a hue and cry of righteous indignation (peppered with quite crude language) is raised without any serious exploration of the issues as seen by the professor/patentee. If learning truly comprises, in part, the exchange of ideas, engaging the individual in a thoughtful discussion would present a wonderful learning opportunity for all who participate.

Nigel (profile) says:

“Predictably, a hue and cry of righteous indignation (peppered with quite crude language) is raised without any serious exploration of the issues as seen by the professor/patentee. If learning truly comprises, in part, the exchange of ideas, engaging the individual in a thoughtful discussion would present a wonderful learning opportunity for all who participate.”

Or we could collectively suggest he fuck off and we actually get something done that benefits society.

N.

kryptonianjorel (profile) says:

Re:

I’ve got one worse for you. Countless times, my booklists have kits that include the textbook and the online code (usually Mastering________). My freshman year, I assumed that we needed the kit since the professors would list them, only to come to class and find out we’re not using the online section at all, and the code was a $60+ waste, with no way to resell it.

That uncertainty prevented us from buying used books ahead of time, AND wasted our money on some code we didn’t need, all because the teacher was lazy about putting up their book list

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Again, shills like you miss the point. If things get too prohibitive for students to learn from him, as in pay single licences for his textbooks, they’ll move on and do without. As in, not pay him anyway. It baffles everyone why you would consider this a good thing.

So what? That’s the capitalist model. If it’s too expensive, people will substitute or do without. Then he will re-examine his pricing and adjust. Your sense of entitlement is what is baffling. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. If you can’t afford it, that doesn’t justify taking something of value like his text without paying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Or we could collectively suggest he fuck off and we actually get something done that benefits society.

I think it’s fairly pointless given your revealing comment above. But you start with the premise that the professor’s initiative must stand alone as benefitting learning- which I reject.

It first protects against the infringement and lost income due to freeloaders. In so doing, it creates an atmosphere where the best minds have a greater confidence that they’ll be paid for their work to a degree greater than currently exists. I get that you somehow think you are entitled to benefit from a lifetime of another’s scholarship and expertise and have no reciprocal duty to pay compensation- but that’s not neither fair, nor just, nor legal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I disagree it creates an atmosphere where great minds become lazy and produce nothing of consequence, there is no stimulus to produce anything since they don’t need it anymore he can just lay back and keep doing whatever he was doing without having to really do real work, it creates a class of social parasites that relies on rent to survive instead of work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I disagree it creates an atmosphere where great minds become lazy and produce nothing of consequence, there is no stimulus to produce anything since they don’t need it anymore he can just lay back and keep doing whatever he was doing without having to really do real work, it creates a class of social parasites that relies on rent to survive instead of work.

The history of great and prolific authorship seems to suggest that you are full of shit. No surprise there.

Nigel (profile) says:

Re:

“But you start with the premise that the professor’s initiative must stand alone as benefitting learning- which I reject.”

No, actually, I intimated that he is a piece of shit because he does not follow the tenets of teaching anyone, anything.

“It first protects against the infringement and lost income due to freeloaders. In so doing, it creates an atmosphere where the best minds have a greater confidence that they’ll be paid for their work to a degree greater than currently exists. I get that you somehow think you are entitled to benefit from a lifetime of another’s scholarship and expertise and have no reciprocal duty to pay compensation- but that’s not neither fair, nor just, nor legal.”

Sorry again but it actually does nothing.
N.

Anonymous Coward says:

1. How the hell does something like this get patented in the first place? There is a tremendous amount of prior art in the form of things like “one-time” use codes for video games and other digital offerings to limit the used sales market. And yet this still gets approved? USPTO examiner James D. Nigh should be ashamed for letting this piece of garbage get approved.

Let me suggest you review the file wrapper before digging your heels in and declaring something to be “garbage”. The gratuitous put down of the patent examiner was uncalled for.

2. The claims here (the patent only has four) are so broad and so general, I don’t see how it passes the non-obvious test, nor how it is anything more than mashing together a few different things that are widely available already and have been for years. After the KSR ruling the USPTO was supposed to reject broad patents that just combined basic concepts already found in the market.

You misconstrue the ruling in KSR v. Teleflex. It provided that the CAFC’s TSM test, while useful, should not be the only test. Even after KSR, it is still incumbent on the USPTO to present evidence underlying a rejection on the basis of obviousness.

3. How could a professor of economics actually think that locking up access to information is a good idea? That alone would make me avoid any class that he taught, as his understanding of information economics is way, way off.

Why not ask him?

4. It’s sad that anyone in academia would think that this is a good idea. In an age where Harvard and MIT are investing a ton into opening up access, this guy is focused on locking it down.

It is not at all clear that the professor is focused on “locking it down”. It is quite possible, perhaps even probable, that his experience in academia, as outlined in his CV, informs him that there are other considerations that should as well be taken into account.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“But you start with the premise that the professor’s initiative must stand alone as benefitting learning- which I reject.”

No, actually, I intimated that he is a piece of shit because he does not follow the tenets of teaching anyone, anything.

I don’t see how his patent efforts reflect on his teaching ability. You are (again) talking out of your ass.

“It first protects against the infringement and lost income due to freeloaders. In so doing, it creates an atmosphere where the best minds have a greater confidence that they’ll be paid for their work to a degree greater than currently exists. I get that you somehow think you are entitled to benefit from a lifetime of another’s scholarship and expertise and have no reciprocal duty to pay compensation- but that’s not neither fair, nor just, nor legal.”

Sorry again but it actually does nothing.

If it did nothing you would’t be here crying about it. And in any event it’s a bit early to tell, isn’t it?

Other than that, you’re spot on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Sadly, you are wasting your time. This is the home of copyright jihadists. Crazed, entitled zealots who have no respect for the work of others and devoid of a moral compass. Some failed creators, others just lowlife freeloaders or tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists. They are the lunatic fringe on the very margins of the debate. Think Teabaggers, Taliban or al Qaeda, only less reasonable and far less personable.

CubistHamster (profile) says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

The vast majority of the people who get screwed by this will be undergraduates. Undergraduates, by and large, are learning things that are already well established. Basically, most of the stuff being taught to most of the people in college is already known. New textbooks are much more about generating income than about serving students. Education is being democritized, and there will be casualties. Tough titties.

drew (profile) says:

Re:

notA does not necessarily equal B.
A lot of the people on this site are against the continued one-way expansion of copyright law (and other forms of IP) but that does not necessarily mean that they wish to see copyright abolished entirely*. Most would rather see it return to its original purpose and timeframe.

* There are a lot of people who would like to see it abolished entirely, some days I’m one of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

The Taliban and al-Qaeda are reasonable?

I think it’s hilarious that you consider people who dislike certain copyright enforcement methods as devoid of a moral compass, and yet, you consider people who deploy suicide bombers as comparatively reasonable.

You’re a joke, along with the notion that copyright law hasn’t changed.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re:

“Research-active universities do not reward professors for publishing textbooks
yet many top professors have written textbooks. One can only assume the
motivation WAS monetary. “

There you have it folks. He’s clearly not suitable for his position.
What’s the VERY first thing you learn when dealing with any branch of scientific research, no matter what field?
You NEVER ASSUME. It is a cardinal sin. To assume is to science what denying Christ’s divinity is to a Catholic Christian.
This guy woke up one morning, said “The motivation for top professors to write textbooks is monetary, and ONLY monetary, so I’ll help them out with that”. He saw a problem, came up with his own conclusion without any research. By admitting that, he should be fired. After all, we have it in his own words.

“It first protects against the infringement and lost income due to freeloaders.”
It can only theoretically protect against infringement (every method of stopping unauthorized copying has failed or will eventually fail). Lost income? How can it protect his lost income when his very source of income, the students, refuse to sign up for his class due to his actions?

Wally (profile) says:

Financing Math Instructor

Before I was at Ohio State, I took my gen. eds. And prereqs. at a community college. My instructor for Financing used a similar system. The previous class before mine was the summer course.

1. You couldn’t ever by the book new because of it’s code.
2. If the book changed editions mid course, the site for the book automatically updated to that edition erasing all your user data and rendering your online courses useless. The instructor failed the entire class.

Wally (profile) says:

From The Tough Titty Dept.

” these books are prime candidate to be ripped off. Why you express surprise that this guy is trying to do something to make textbook writing attractive, is a mystery. Forget sharing. How about considering whether infringing doesn’t simply kill off an entire market segment. Glad to see this guy get a patent and hope that it helps.”

So, is it attractive to use the Book’s buggy online course work that changes each edition?

Does it make a book attractive when the edition updates and all your registered course work online is rendered useless and meaningless?

Does it make it more attractive to not be able to sell it back to a book store in relatively good condition so you can save money towards more books?

Have you ever tried scanning books into PDF Format?

It’s quite difficult to see how you would be attracted to having the potential to completely fail due to the book making a change in editions.

drew (profile) says:

Re:

It would be an interesting poll to do on the site actually, get a quick view of the reader’s opinions. Something like
Do you think copyright:
a) should be enforced more strictly and have a longer duration?
b) should exist in its current form?
c) should be re-wound to its original scope and duration?
d) should be abolished entirely?
e) should be changed in a way not listed above?

What do you think Mike? Quick poll?

Beta (profile) says:

Re:

“Research-active universities do not reward professors for publishing textbooks yet many top professors have written textbooks. One can only assume the motivation WAS monetary.”

There you have it folks. He’s clearly not suitable for his position. What’s the VERY first thing you learn when dealing with any branch of scientific research, no matter what field? You NEVER ASSUME… This guy woke up one morning, said “The motivation for top professors to write textbooks is monetary, and ONLY monetary…” He saw a problem, came up with his own conclusion without any research.

Actually that’s a pretty common starting assumption in basic economics: that all the actors are seeking their own profit, measured by some simple metric like money. It’s a crude, first-order approximation, the kind of thing you study in the freshman year, a good model to try first — and test, and reject if it doesn’t fit the evidence.

But he himself says two paragraphs later:
“I invented the patented system largely for the same reason that I research and publish: the challenge and joy of puzzle-solving.”

So either he admits he’s not “a top professor” and is making some weird assumptions, or he’s just not paying attention to what he writes.

Beta (profile) says:

Re:

“Predictably, a hue and cry of righteous indignation (peppered with quite crude language) is raised without any serious exploration of the issues as seen by the professor/patentee… If learning truly comprises, in part, the exchange of ideas, engaging the individual [the Professor?] in a thoughtful discussion would present a wonderful learning opportunity for all who participate.”

It’s difficult to explore issues as seen by a man who describes them in an incoherent and illogical way. Unless he deigns to take part in this discussion, all we can do is underscore his very, very bad reasoning.

Beta (profile) says:

Re:

“I get that you somehow think you are entitled to benefit from a lifetime of another’s scholarship and expertise and have no reciprocal duty to pay compensation- but that’s not neither fair, nor just, nor legal.”

I have derived immeasurable benefit from the lifetimes of scholarship and expertise of Archimedes, Euclid, Galileo, Da Vinci, Kepler, Newton, Mendeleev, Franklin, Gauss, Euler, Faraday, Maxwell, Curie, Einstein, Bose, Fermi, Turing, G?del, and too many others to count, without ever giving any of them a dime. This is perfectly legal and absolutely right, and anyone who says that I shouldn’t have been allowed to do so because of “fairness” is an enemy of science.

kryptonianjorel (profile) says:

Re:

I don’t see how that will help. Basically the way I believe the system works; the professor says “I’m going to require this textbook” and they checkmark some pack that includes the online codes. Whether the professor is being lazy, or is ignorant of what he or she is selecting, I don’t know. So yes, we know ahead of time what text will be required, but we don’t know if we actually need the kit, code included.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Whoa…! The author of the article here has not the slightest hesitation to contact others and engage them in private and public discussions, including encouraging them to write articles for publication here, on matters with which he agrees with their positions. I can only wonder if the article here reflects a propensity to practice a different tack whenever an article does not reflect his personal views.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

>Then he will re-examine his pricing and adjust.

You’re joking, right? The RIAA already tried this trick, claiming that they need to charge 15 bucks for CDs that cost $1 to manufacture because it was “new technology”. If this guy is anything like the RIAA “re-examine his pricing and adjust” won’t happen. He’s already made the jump that only students that are rich enough can learn; it’s not too far from insisting that subsequent backlashes are because all students are pirates.

JHLundin (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

…as much as I agree that the price and useful life of textbooks is waaaaaay too high and waaaay too short, a person who goes to the time, research and credentialing process has a right to define and protect his/her intellectual property…

I would suggest that this is merely an author/researcher/instructor who is attempting to broaden the scope of intellectual property coverage of the intellectual property that he has developed from people who are attempting to get the benefit without paying the licensing fees requested/required.

In a world that can easily rip IP contents ranging from music to textbooks, the IP holders are defining the new borders of the old set of IP ethics…

Finally, this author/instructor probably would not have spent the time, energy and expense to go through the patent process had he not been the victim of IP thieves smiling at him from his own classroom…

Best wishes for an education sufficient to create IP of your own! J

Beta (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

A book is not damaged by being read. To prevent it from being read is not protecting it. To alter it in such a way as to make it less readable, while adding nothing at all to its content, is to damage and desecrate it. That is what a book needs protection from.

An instructor who uses this method is deliberately rendering the textbook which he wrote (at least in part) less usable to his/her students, in the hopes that this will allow the instructor (who already receives a salary) to extort some money from his students (who are already paying tuition). Students who want to share a textbook are not thieves and I doubt that they would smile much at a so-called teacher who attempted to destroy that ability in order to line his own pockets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Prediction:

a) 3 %
b) 2 %
c) 30 %
d) 25 %
e) 40 %

Some people want the holes made clearer and enforcement made more international (stronger is not the word in this case, but neither is it a relaxation.)
Some people want to strenghten the enforcement of copyright on physical products while abandoning it on the net.
Few people will like to strenghten enforcement on the existing laws.

I think the questions are too broad and does not lead to sufficient options on how the future should be.

JHLundin (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

Thanks Beta, but the *right* to make content which is protected by intellectual property rights less approachable lies with the intellectual property holder, not with the student nor with the school. The intellectual property rights to books lie with the authors and the intellectual property rights to the course content and method lie with the instructor. If they choose to make the text or the teaching method difficult, I would hope that the people who decide on textbooks and instructors would decide against using those texts and instructors…

…it is not a *right* of students to tell the intellectual property holders what interfaces their IP should have. Students do have free speech and can make their displeasure known. Hopefully some administrator will select other IP for the school’s students.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Unlike in the universe of recorded music, such an innovation as that patented by Prof. Joseph does not exist. If the professor’s patent works, it will actually limit infringing. In the realm of music and video files there’s no such alternative. People will either buy, not buy or easily pirate. I’d argue that the Prof’s system limits piracy as an alternative and pricing will indeed influence sales.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s break this down, professor:

1. Publish a book. Offer to teach a class.
2. Sell your textbook for so high a price that nobody wants to keep it.
3. Require students to have your textbook as a condition of taking your class.
4. Require students to buy a password to a message board that’s indistinguishable from or inferior to every other discussion board on the Internet, where they will discuss their class with their classmates. Ignore the fact that the entire Internet is a discussion forum and require students to use yours.
5. Include a password to the discussion forum inside a new copy of your overpriced textbook. (Optionally, revise 3 sentences in your textbook every semester, require the latest version AND a message board password in order to take your class, and make students buy both every semester.)
6. Fail anyone who can’t afford steps 3, 4 or 5.

This is a disgusting profit-seeking system and nothing more. You are trying to profit from making it harder and more expensive for students. You may understand economics professor, but I don’t think you understand karmanomics. I believe a special kind of bad karma befalls anyone who engages in this level of douchebaggery.

Beta (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

Well, at least we can agree that such an instructor should be fired and his textbook abandoned (although why you say it in such unclear language is, well, unclear).

Your argument seems to depend almost entirely on the emotional power of bad terminology like “intellectual property” (a legal term which I guess in this context means copyright) and “protect” (cripple) and “thieves” (non-thieves). Without it, all you’re saying is that the instructor has a natural right to be a dick and a bad teacher (I agree), and a legal right to impose artificial restrictions on the use of the text he writes, and to sue anyone who breaks those restrictions (might stand up in court, IANAL).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I might be reading his patent wrong, but as far as I see it, he is selling access to the “discussion board”, while only making the book one way to achieve that “discussion board”.

He is a romantic believing that the book will become free or cheaper (that is cute! :-)) while the “discussion board” will be his money-cow.

What I see as the primary problems are that this is essentially a publisher-tax on participating in this professors classes. I would say that this monopoly-building tax is a problem for a host of legal and moral reasons, while being economically disadvantageous and not advancing the learning-experience for the students.
Except for the specific publisher and author chosen to this publisher-heaven, this is screwing over a lot students. You also have to wonder what kinds of contracts will be used to force the publisher and even worse specific books down the throats of the students. I cannot see these contracts getting advantageous to the students at all.

All in all, I cannot see any long-term appeal in this solution.

The Patent Examiner Guy (profile) says:

ALmost nobody commented on the patent itself, so, as a patent examiner, I was curious and looked it up and found a PCT filing for the thing, and, well, at least somebody knows their stuff – the international preliminary opinion on patenteability states lack of novelty for every claim… not bad..

https://register.epo.org/espacenet/application?documentId=EOMZ02Z15399FI4&number=EP07861336&lng=en&npl=false

(sorry about the link, the usual [url][/url] doesn’t seem to work here)

Nonetheless, the granted US version has widely amended claims when compared to the original PCT, but everything is more or less business method stuff, so no patenteability for those parts in Europe, making the patent completely bogus, assuming the examiner’s know what they’re doing. Anyway, I thought the latest decision coming from Bilski was that the USPTO had to examine the technological basis for the business method, not the method itself, exactly like in Europe.. maybe I missed some decision along the way…

So yeah, I’m glad I live in Europe ๐Ÿ™‚ (except for having to put up with stupid “proteced by US patent” disclaimers on almost everything by US companies).

Brent (profile) says:

i have just submitted a patent that covers the never before patented area of ‘A system by which technological and other intellectual property efforts gain protection from unlawful duplication.’

Since its obvious that any patent will be approved, why not patent that patent system? Then I’ll sue the government and everyone holding a patent under their system for infringement.

JHLundin (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

Hi Beta, you are a little quick on the trigger (“fire” and “abandon” kinda suggest this)… and you are quick to put words in my mouth (or at least into my comment)…

…One of your earlier suggests that you are a scientist and a scholar. The world of “intellectual property” has a defined lexicon just like physics. If you could do a little research, you will find that intellectual property covers both “patents” and “copyrights”… but there is defined difference between them…

And as for your pejorative adjectives and bad language… it just shows your bad judgement. I am just happy that I can turn you off… Bye Bye Beta!

Beta (profile) says:

...it is his intellectual property that he is defining/protecting...

So you are averse to clear, specific language, and you don’t like “pejorative” adjectives (although you use pejorative nouns, like “thieves”, even when it is dishonest to do so– I wonder how you feel about “hypocrite”).

Your style is familiar to anyone who has read Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. Don’t hurry back.

patent litigation (user link) says:

This patent appears to protect the IP rights on a product that simply makes life unnecessarily more costly and difficult for a generation of already-cash-strapped students. Is it not enough that, due to an exponential rise in tuition, increased costs, and global recession, most students in the US are lucky to be able to attend school at all, much less purchase books that they might not even need? Moreover, potentially putting this demographic on the hook for IP infringement simply does not seem justifiable.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...