Costa Rican Students Fight For The Right To Photocopy Textbooks

from the lessons-to-be-learned dept

One of the most important pieces of research to emerge last year was “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies“. A central theme was that much unauthorized copying around the world is driven by attempts to impose Western-level prices everywhere, resulting in media goods that are simply beyond the reach of most people in countries whose economies are still developing.

Here’s an interesting story from Costa Rica, where the same effects are playing out in education:

Thousands of students participated in a march in San José on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, protesting for their right to photocopy textbooks for educational purposes. The unrest was caused by President Chinchilla vetoing Bill 17342 (known as the ‘Photocopying Law’) which seeks to amend Law No 8039 on Procedures for Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, on the grounds that it removes protection of the work and intellectual property in the artistic, literary and technological areas.

As the article on notes, that veto was prompted at least in part by lobbying from publishers who charge unrealistically high prices for their textbooks, which then drives students to use photocopies instead.

It’s interesting that large numbers of Costa Rican students felt strongly enough about this issue to take to the streets — rather as thousands of their contemporaries did in Europe over ACTA earlier this year. That’s evidence that this isn’t simply a case of people wanting to get “something for nothing”, as copyright apologists might try to frame it. Rather, this is about a group who depend on unauthorized copies in order to gain access to knowledge that is vital for their studies, but which is otherwise unaffordable thanks to monopoly pricing.

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Comments on “Costa Rican Students Fight For The Right To Photocopy Textbooks”

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Dionaea (profile) says:

Sad but true...

Most of the larger “standard” textbooks are unrealistically expensive. Even compared to other scientific books. I have free access to a lot of material on Campus, because our University Library pays millions each year to get campuswide access to a large number of magazines (needless to say I save anything and everything I ever look at to my harddisk in case I lose access). Practicing science is becoming ridiculously expensive and at the cost of quality too. It’s like being in a library where you can see the stuff you need is on the shelf and you can read the backs of the books, but for most you have to pay huge amounts to actually be allowed to look inside. So what happens is you just copy a lot of the stuff you need from books/articles from fellow students/professors who already paid up. Or go on a downloading spree when visiting a foreign university which does have access (seen it happen). It’s really sad that sometimes you can see from an article that the authors simply haven’t had access to the newest material available and end up supporting outdated theories.

Copyright supporting science? Get a grip, all it does is hinder it. If you ask me scientific publishers are the most disgusting ones around.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, to be honest,t his has been going on for a considerable length of time, and not just in the sciences.

For example, to purchase my textbooks for the first year if University new, it would have cost double the Loan price. Even used, it cost nearly half the amount of the student loan to get each book. And that was before taking into account the cost to Universities of access to the journals and magazines that are required in order to produce sufficient references for even two assignments.

Anonymous Coward says:

The business models for academic publishing are both (a) exploitive and (b) obsolete. This applies to those overpriced introductory undergraduate textbooks (in whatever nation) as well as the ridiculous prices and restrictions on academic journal articles.

All US university professors have (not always exercised) ability to choose the books used in courses they teach. The ethical majority do consider costs to the student. And a variety of open textbook initiatives have helped.

As for research, every academic I know has from time-to-time been forced to ask a colleague at another university to e-mail a PDF. More senior researchers can also arrange honorary appointments that include library database access privileges.

Ironically, the grad students and junior researchers who have the greatest professional need also have the smallest access to these informal networks.

Given the increases in storage and bandwidth, I quite expect enormous swaths of older academic knowledge to leak out from behind the paywalls sometime in the next decade — some ambitious and careful activist will duplicate and release all of JSTOR, IEEE Xplore, or similar. And should this happen, I expect US law would look to put some folk in jail, ala Aaron Swartz.

Anonymous Coward says:

Students Have Some Power

The expensive textbook problem is very important to students and is well known to all players in universities. If lecturers or the university administration are forcing unnecessary textbook expense, that should be a big factor in course assessments by students. Students should not hesitate to complain loud and long, preferably in writing, about expensive textbooks.

The choice of textbook is under the control of the lecturer. Do not allow them to get away with stupid, lazy, careless or possibly corrupt decision making. They have no excuses. They are supposed to be subject experts. Any lecturer recommending expensive textbooks should find themselves subject to fierce criticism, plus being marked down savagely in assessments.

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