More on This Class (c) 2008

A few updates on my post from yesterday…

Gavin provides his personal experience with the professor in question, including news that “the professor is not a plaintiff but says he supports the suit.” He links to a cartoon in the student paper, and provides this invitation in his comment:

David, I think you and I should take a world tour, to bash academics in the head with frying pans until they understand this point.

Gavin, I’ll provide the frying pans. Just call.

Mr. Sullivan (the lawyer in the suit) commented on the post, upset that I “declined to provide” a link to the Complaint. Well, here’s a link to the company’s own page dedicated to the lawsuit, including links to the Complaint and all the other information they think you deserve to know.

The site is – incredibly – called the Future of Higher Ed. Heaven help us if publishers suing people is the future of higher education in this country. The page includes this awesome quote:

Professor Moulton has published successfully through Faulkner Press for several years, and in this lawsuit Faulkner Press is proud to protect the rights of Professor Moulton and the rights of all professors.

It’s so hypocritical it makes me want to throw up. Paragraph 22 of the Complaint filed by Faulkner says clearly that “Professor Moulton has transferred his copyrights in the lecture to Faulkner Press.” P 26 says he has transferred rights in his textbooks to Faulkner Press and P 33 says he has transferred the rights to his film study questions to Faulkner Press. “Oh, we’re standing up for the rights of professors everywhere” Faulkner says, when in their own Complaint they state that Moulton doesn’t own the rights to his own work. Faulkner Press does.

So what is this lawsuit about? P 66 of the Complaint is crystal clear:

The conduct Defendants described in this Complaint is causing and, unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, will continue to cause FAULKNER PRESS great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money.

The suit is, of course, about Faulkner’s ability to make money from Moulton’s work. More of the same from academic publishers. They expect faculty to come up with the ideas, to find the funding to do the research, to carry out the research, to write up the results of research, and then sign over all the copyrights in the results to them. This case is only slightly different; Moulton created a variety of (we assume high quality) teaching materials, and then Faulkner somehow snookers him into signing over all the copyrights in his work to them. So that Faulkner can sue people and say “we nobly defend the rights of professors.” Nope – thanks to you, the professor has no more copyrights in his work. Shame, shame, shame.

Keith Dungan of Faulkner Press emailed me saying:

I just wanted you to be aware of what these professors are having to deal with.

These are undergrads “reteaching” to the test, with no QA.

I responded, in part:

You say that faculty have to “deal with” this, but study groups of all sorts who share notes and tutor and teach each other without QA are a great tradition at universities; for some of my classes as an undergrad these groups were important to my succeeding in the class. As a professor now, I strongly encourage my students to participate in these types of groups and find and share extra resources to help them learn. If these groups or services help them understand concepts that they just “can’t get” from me and my materials, I’m happy.

And since when do professors have any QA of their teaching materials? They’re experts in their fields; they don’t necessarily know anything about pedagogy. Complaining about a lack of QA is something students wish you would do with regard to most professors, not these services.

Finally, in his comment on my previous post, the lawyer Mr. Sullivan said:

I’m not familiar with your views on IP in general, but if you hold that a professor’s lecture is in the public domain, such that any third party may make as much money on that IP as the market will yield, then we disagree.

Yes, Mr. Sullivan, we disagree. I agree that as US copyright law stands (since the US bowed down to Berne) a professor’s lectures are automatically copyrighted to the full extent of the law. Where we disagree is that I think professors have a moral obligation to license those materials to students and the public under an open license like the Creative Commons Attribution license, ESPECIALLY at a public institution like Florida where public tax monies pay the professors’ salaries. Those materials should belong to the public who paid for them. The NIH recently figured this out for publicly funded research; public institutions of higher education should follow their example with even stronger policy.

1 thought on “More on This Class (c) 2008”

  1. As a student, I am actually disgusted. Every year I haul out hundreds of dollars to pay for textbooks published by these vultures. Publishing companies (with the aid of many professors) overcharge their captive audience and get away with that massive injustice. Now they want to make us pay them as well for doing what we have already payed the institution to do… to learn? I feel sick. If I’m ever assigned a textbook from Faulkner Press I will not buy it. They will not get a cent from me. I’ll just show my scanner some love.

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