But the actual complaint ( http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-yor... ) suggests that the publishers allege much more. You don't have to agree with the publisher's claims (you obviously don't), but be fair and give the full picture.
The publishers claim that Boundless is copying the chapter titles, subtitles, subheadings, and pagination of each book, using pictures of the book as marketing materials, and then paraphrasing 100% of the text of each book.
It's true that you can't copyright facts, but paraphrasing on such a fine level is often considered copyright infringement. Even Wikipedia forbids close paraphrasing unless the original material is in the public domain or there is absolutely no other way to express it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Close_paraphrasing
Universities also consider close paraphrasing to be plagiarism:
And a court 100-ish years ago found that a close copy of an economics textbook was a form of copyright infringement, in a very similar pre-digital case (it's not like the digital era is the first time that people have noticed that books are expensive):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macmillan_Co._v._King
Should that doctrine apply here? Is it a good doctrine in the digital era? There's room for debate. But you'd never know that from the blog post.
Believe me, we would love to go into very, very specific detail on exactly what is covered in the complaint, unfortunately talking publicly about details in the suit is taboo/off-limits. Further, our response isn't yet filed, which would provide some of that detail.
But it's telling they chose to pursue litigation instead of any other form of out-reach.
If you've infringed their content, for instance by knowingly paying contractors to create 1:1 versions of copyrighted textbooks down to specific analogies and figures (like the Smokey the Thermodynamics Bear), why would it be on them to pursue any other form out outreach? You'd have committed a tort against them. They're entitled to relief. It's on you not to violate their copyright.
It's a little annoying that you're trying to leverage people's sentiment about textbook publishers so actively. Right is right and wrong is wrong, even when we don't like the people who've been wronged. It's actually even more wrong, since it casts a pall over everyone else trying to modernize the economics of textbooks.
Infringement is not necessarily a simple matter. Oracle pointed to what appeared to be direct copying of Java files by Google. But the truth turned out to be considerably more complex. The result is still uncertain, but there are good reasons to question whether even something like that will be enough to support a claim of infringement.
Now, I don't know how things will play out in this case. But that's my point, because none of us know. We don't have to pick sides today, though.
I'm glad that I was correct to assume the best, though.
Yeah, but what it's telling of is similarly open to debate. You'd probably say that that is proves they can't innovate or something in that direction. They might say that it's such an obvious and easy win that they don't even need to bother discussing it with you.
Also, it's worth noting that a violent reaction to a business model being threatened is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, let's suppose someone is looting your shop. Do you allow them to do so, or do you take out the baseball bat behind the counter? If the looter said, "Hey, you're only getting out that bat because your business model is being threatened," that would probably not be compelling to you or to any bystanders that happened to be about.
Again, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that what you are doing is equivalent to looting. I'm only trying to point out that other readers ought not take your side simply because you think you're threatening someone's business model.
As to their lawsuit, good luck. I never understood why my books were so expensive (early 2000s). Of course if you're using the chapter titles of their texts as someone mentioned, I'm not an expert on copyright law, but it just feels wrong.
Summarizing may legally be different than re-writing however, so it'll be interesting to see where the case goes.
"a tool to help you understand literature."
Cliffs Notes is "fair use".
The same way you can review a movie in the local paper or even a TV station can do a movie review and use short clips.
So while it would be possible to discuss and give examples of how a textbook presented information (as a critique of that textbook) you can't copy it (apparently as being claimed) in the way boundless is doing.
As the OP pointed out we will know more when they file their response.
Look, most of us on HN have read many college textbooks. I think we all recognize that way more goes into a textbook than just the prose.
I'm not judging you, just message-board-nerding your comment here. This is pretty common in threads about legal actions. "We didn't do XXYM", where /\AXX..\Z/ is what's been alleged.
Allowing Smokey the Thermodynamics Bear was a super bad idea, by the way.
1. In order to profit from references to the source text's section+page numbers, they took care to edit, reorder, and adjust layout so that the identity mapping suffices. This makes me wonder: what compromises did they have to make to achieve this? Why didn't they just provide an easy to use lookup index?
2. They copied the texts, thinking that paraphrasing would protect them. (or laxly supervised contractors/employees who resorted to copying)
Both seem plausible to me.
As you imply, the ordering of the facts constitute a creative expression, which is not the same as an arbitrary arrangement of facts: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/can-you-copy-raw-data.... (Unless it's an alphabetically-ordered phone book or something to that effect.)
"This case concerns the interaction of two well-established propositions. The first is that facts are not copyrightable; the other, that compilations of facts generally are."
"The key to resolving the tension lies in understanding why facts are not copyrightable. The sine qua non of copyright is originality. To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original to the author."
"Boundless is putting students back in control of their education." is extremely vague.
Could they possibly just summarize what their product is? I'm guessing this is some kind of e-textbook? What is a textbook replacement? Are you replacing the physical format of a textbook into an eBook? Are you proposing an alternative (like interactive learning?)
But if the textbook publishing industry is suing you, you must be doing something right.
The first iteration of our product gave a student a 100% free alternative to buying their expensive textbook. The product is completely digital with search functionality, notes, highlights, etc. Very similar to an e-text, but a more elegant experience (and of course free!).
We did that by leveraging something called Open Educational Resources (OER). OER is open source content developed by top institutions, organizations, and educational individuals. It sits in unorganized databases which makes it hard for a student or professor to adopt. We bridge the gap between the OER content and the student.
Ultimately this is our first step. We don't consider ourselves a textbook company. No student wants to read hundreds of pages of text. Now that we have a great base of content, we will be redefining the user experience so that the user can focus on bite sized pieces of information rather than long form text.
Let me know if you have other questions.
"Tired of spending thousands on college only to be forced to use educational products that you don't like? It’s time for a change. Boundless is built directly for students like you, tailored to each of your courses so that you can ditch the expensive textbook, master the essentials and boost your grade."
"Boundless replaces your textbooks. It's free."
I disagree. I bet if you went over to Reddit and asked on /r/math or /r/physics, you'd find plenty of people who have a favorite textbook. For example, I'd say Apostol's "Calculus", volume 1, is a favorite textbook of mine. I've read it 3 or 4 times over the last 30 years. The Feynman Lectures on Physics are another favorite of mine.
> 4x more expensive/less accessible/same form factor
(that's from their infographic, comparing textbooks in the '60s to now. It was on three lines there, which I've marked with slashes to fit the quote on one line)
Based on inflation, they should be about 6x more expensive, so if that 4x figure is right textbook prices have improved since the '60s. However, I suspect that they are a little low in their estimate here. I think prices have gone up faster than inflation.
I don't see how text books have become less accessible since the '60s.
> There’s one other major concern: textbooks are just flat-out terrible products. They’re ineffective pedagogical tools: dense collections of long-form text that fail to engage students’ wide range of learning styles
This may be true for the less technical fields, but I have yet to see anything better for, say, a rigorous upper level math course.
Great and awful professors and books tend to make an impression, and people on Hacker News could go on forever on algorithm books.
To be fair, the reason you haven't seen anything better is because very few people are able to get traction in the face of deep, deep entrenchment. Have you watched Bret Victor's "Kill Math" video? Imagine if most technical courses had that kind of interactive material. But right now, they won't, because the barriers to entry are artificially high and incumbents aren't innovating.
Everything else has become far more accessible though.
There's no reason an electronic math textbook couldn't generate unique problems for each student and even grade them, for example. And if they could ever integrate something like Maple a lot of possibilities would open up.
I think we're already trending in that direction, though, so it's more a matter of who will build it.
But, your description doesn't impress and convince me. I'd drop at least more than half of the document. I'd drop most of the description about the problems with current textbooks and all the vague sales pitches. I'd focus on why your solution is better.
As I am reading this, I got the impression that you don't have much except being free and online.
Where does the content come from? Are the authors a good reference? How do you plan on making money? With annoying ads?
And the lawsuit seems like a different document. Used for publicity?