Every semester, college students spend a sizable chunk of change on textbooks. For some, the per-semester costs for books can run upwards of $800-$1200. Students are always looking for creative ways to cut costs on textbooks whether that means sharing with a roommate, borrowing from a friend, reserving the book at a public library, or purchasing from online retailers instead of the college bookstore. When students are faced with paying an average of $100 per textbook, some decide it's just not worth it, especially when some professors have a reputation for not using the textbooks in class.
Unfortunately, other students feel the pressure to infringe on copyrights by making illegal copies or using or sharing unauthorized downloads. Ignorance isn't bliss on this one. Get the facts about textbook piracy and learn about how publishers are cracking down on this troubling trend.
Textbook piracy is illegally downloading textbooks from a file-share website. Similar to websites that facilitate downloading movies or music, these sites provide links to download the contents of the textbook. Often, a version of textbooks has been scanned and uploaded to a computer. Sometimes downloads are unauthorized copies of purchased ebooks. The rise of textbook piracy can be attributed to many factors, but many point to the high cost of textbooks as a major factor.
There are several problems with illegally downloading textbooks. First of all, it is copyright infringement. Secondly, the publishing company loses money for every downloaded, but not purchased, textbook. Once publishers discover illegal material on websites, they can request that their material be removed. However, these websites are protected by federal law from copyright lawsuits if they remove the material after they receive the request. Some sites strive to be open sharing sites, but people take advantage of the openness.
Many colleges and universities have disciplinary policies in place that explain the consequences for students who engage in plagiarism or are involved in other copyright infringement issues. These cases are taken seriously. The federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act grants the copyright owner the right to take action in court to seek civil liability or criminal prosecution. Media organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have become very aggressive in pursuing revenues lost to illegal downloading. Many believe that with the increasing popularity of e-readers, this trend will extend to book publishers as well.
In addition, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin helped create the College Textbook Affordability Act, a part of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization, which was signed into law in August 2008. This act is supposed to help to keep costs of textbooks at a lower rate. As a result of this act, publishers will be required to give professors a written price list for textbooks, information on the different editions, and information about cheaper versions. The hope with this act is to give professors better information about the textbooks they choose for their classes and encourage them to investigate cheaper options for required texts.