Los Angeles – A patent was issued last week to economics professor Joseph Henry Vogel for a system and method for controlling use of academic texts. Patent 8,195,571 outlines a methodology whereby students would be required to participate in a web-based online discussion board, which would count toward their final course grade. The code to gain access to the discussion board would be obtained when the students purchase the associated textbooks. Students who do not buy the textbooks get a lower grade. Second-hand purchase of books would be allowed, but students would still have to purchase a discounted access code. This would allow publishers to charge multiple times for a single textbook and ensure that all profits go directly to publishers and authors, instead of secondary sources.
Currently there are hundreds of websites that allow students to share, sell or copy school materials, at little or no cost. Frustrated and monetarily challenged students have historically been forced to spend hundreds of dollars per course for textbooks. Even worse, books are reissued and reprinted so frequently that often they cannot be resold or reused. To combat this problem, some professors are turning a blind eye toward photocopied materials, and some even provide online textbooks from open sources.
However, Professor Vogel insists that the academic community should move in the opposite direction. Vogel claims that this new patent will help prevent copyright infringement and piracy, which have gradually crippled the publishing industry. Illegal copying and piracy of academic materials has hurt academic communities who need publishing opportunities and royalties to survive. Without changes, academic communities would receive less money from publishers and have fewer opportunities to get published. According to Professor Vogel, his technology is not exclusively intended to prevent students from sharing textbooks or purchasing pirated school materials online. It would also allow academic communities to take back control of their published materials and help correct the existing industry problems.
Students may not be thrilled with the prospect of being forced to purchase textbooks exclusively from publishers, but publishers are thrilled with the idea of better controls for academic materials. Publishers in the U.S. and U.K., including the Association of American Publishers, have already expressed interest. Vogel anticipates industry-wide support of his newly patented technology and believes it will change the face of academic publishing.