Patent Granted for System to Prevent Printed Textbook Piracy

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—June 8, 2012—The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued patent #8195571 on June 5, 2012, to Joseph Henry Vogel, professor of economics at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. The invention prevents piracy and enables publishers to receive payment when textbooks are resold. Broad adoption of the system raises the possibility of a single platform across universities for all textbooks.

Textbook publishers are in an existential crisis. A survey conducted at the University of California-Riverside found that 74 percent of the students did not purchase any textbook. Publishers also compete against themselves in a used-book market increasingly nimble due to the Internet.

In 2007, Vogel met with Pat Schroeder, then president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to discuss his Web-based system. Schroeder believed that copyright software protection, known as digital rights management (DRM), would alleviate the problem. Today, hackers crack DRMs in record time and legal recourse seems hopeless.

According to Tom Allen, current president of the AAP, “Gor every rogue site that is taken down, there are hundreds more demanding similar effort. I can’t think of a more timely example of the need for additional tools…”

In Vogel’s system, publishers issue licenses free of charge to professors who cite a trademarked textbook in their syllabi. The license has two conditions: the course must require that students participate in a discussion board and the participation must count toward the final grade. With the purchase of a textbook, the student receives an access code to enter the board. In the case of a used book or pirated download, the student pays for the access code. No payment, no access code; no participation, get a lower final grade.

The patent recognizes that the system diminishes the freedom of professors to design courses. To offset that impact, claims 1, 6 and 11 establish that “a percentage of the students’ purchases [will be distributed] to beneficiaries” who enhance academic freedom. In effect, textbooks that bear Principiis Obsta—the trademark for the Web-based system—will underwrite academic freedom through the royalties paid by publishers.

  • Jeffrey Guevara

    This is ridiculous. Once a book is purchased and the price has been paid for the book it is extortion to hold someone hostage for buying a used book. There should be no per use charges on books, art CDs or the like.

  • Christopher Eckeard

    As a professor, I see know benefit for me doing this as I already receive the text books from the publishers for free. Why would I select a text book that would further limit my students from acquiring the desired knowledge, other then the current economic restrictions to text books. I already have discussion boards that are available for my courses use. This form of Right Management requires to much from me and my campus and no perceived benefits to the students. Remember the students are why we are there.

  • OrCrush

    I’m wondering how did 74 percent of students manage to earn good grades without the required textbooks? Where did the authors get this figure?

    When I was in college, I did share my (used) books with a classmate to keep both of our costs down. We did not pirate or copy them…we simply took turns using them. At the end of the term, the well-cared-for books were returned to the bookstore for credit on the next round. Even then (late 80’s), a single first-year course’s books could cost in excess of $400.

    Personally, I predict that as more and more course materials migrate to the web, tuition will include a fee to access the specific study materials. The login information will include methods to discourage sharing this information. Simple as that.

  • Robert Cratchit

    Click through on the "Source" link above ( ) and you will see why this is such a great idea, at least for Joseph Henry Vogel. FunAdventureTravel!