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The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Response to a Post...

In a recent comment to this blog Anonymous said...

This is not related to your current post, but just a question for you....I recently read in Entertainment Weekly (yes!) that Madonna (and other prominent musicians) are moving away from the "big name" record labels and going with start-ups, direct to consumers (via the web), or otherwise giving their music away. The article suggested that these moves were to promote fan loyalty and generate more listeners. And since the real money for the artists is in licensing, merchandise, touring, etc.--there's no problem for them.My question is this: "How do you think this growing trend is likely to impact the already shifting concepts (perceptions?) of copyright, ownership, "right to", and "on the web is free" that our customers bring to the table?

A very interesting question, Anonymous. By coincidence this dicussion also came up in one of our recent digital content strategic planning taskforce conference calls. For a long time many industries in the US have been moving toward consolidation. However, here is an example of how technology facilitates the startup, the entrepreneur -- by providing outlets for stars, like Madonna and Radiohead, to move more easily to other outlets for their content distribution. The music industry is still progressing through a dramatic evolution. What will be interesting is how this plays out in the textbook and other print content markets. Will faculty also decide to end-run the traditional channel (publishers) to provide content to students at lower cost? Models like Connexions could facilitate that movement -- providing mechanisms of peer review, use count, and other social networking review elements that could make publishing in such outlets more valuable than what traditional publishers currently provide.

More directly to the point of your question -- what are the implications for copyright and IP? I am not sure. To my knowledge, the jury is still somewhat out on the repurposing of content (e.g., mash-ups). There are also initiatives to revise copyright and provide greater flexibility in academic markets -- but if the content is primarily produced for the academic market (i.e., textbooks) then the financial implications for content producers (a fair use criterion) could be significant. That would favor, in my opinion, restricting an overly radical reinterpretation of copyright law with textbook or course material content.

As with most other industries, the concept of value will likely continue to move away from the product and more toward services and value-added elements that make the product of greater value to the consumer. Revenue might not come as much from the content itself, as from the ancillary elements that sit around or are applied to the content. The product (here the content) might ultimately be given away for free, or perhaps nearly free. Consider, for example, institutional licensing models for content -- that ensure access and affordability for all, and at a lower cost per student. We are already seeing these on campus for music and video, so when will digital textbooks follow? Content producers could do this with the understanding that making use of the content opens a host of new opportunities for revenue for content producers beyond what the content alone could provide.

Does that answer the question, or just raise more?

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