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Copyright Under Attack

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With an increasing number of universities trying to go around copyright laws by copying textbooks, many in the publishing industry feel that their profits are under attack. William Bowes, the general counsel and company secretary at Cambridge University Press, is certain that the rights of publishers to charge for educational content are currently threatened by governments across the world. He believes that attempts by countries like the US, Canada and India to expand educational exemptions set a dangerous precedent for the future.

“I understand the emotional anger about locking up the information, but I don’t understand why, on a public policy and legal level, the content industry should be singled out in this way”, he claims in an interview with Publishing Perspective. Though there have been many legal cases brought by publishers and copyright collectives against universities that copy textbooks, governments appear inclined to protect Fair Use models rather than defend the rights of publishers to earn money from their content.

If this tendency continues, Bowes is pessimistic about the future. “If you’re an education and academic publisher and your only revenue comes from licensing and selling work in an education context, then you won’t be able to monetize your work at all”, he claims.

Yet he understands why the world has come to the current situation. Most governments see education as a vital tool for making sure that their citizens are successful in the future. Very often, copyright ends up getting in the way of the things schools and universities want to do, so governments agree to increase the size of the public domain so that such institutions get the content they want for free.

Naturally, Bowe’s view isn’t the only one out there. Some, like Emily Hudson, senior lecturer in law at Australia’s University of Queensland and lecturer at King’s College London, thinks that the opposite is true. “My perception,” she says, “is that for many years, there has been a strengthening of rights for authors and publishers. For instance, there have been statements from the European Court of Justice that exceptions should be interpreted strictly, as well as things like term extension and the expansion of rights to cover digital content and online use.”

And our video about how bad it is to steal:


Source: “Balancing Copyright and Access in Education”, Mark Piesing, Publishing Perspective, Spring 2017, p.24

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