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NEWS ARCHIVES ACROSS THEMES  
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  News articles recently covered under
Copyrights/Data Integrity/Ethical issues
 


SPARC urges Department of Justice to block Cengage, McGraw-Hill merger
- 15 Aug 2019

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has submitted a detailed filing to the U.S. Department of Justice urging federal antitrust enforcers to block the proposed merger between college textbook publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education. The merger would create the largest publisher of college course materials in the United States and the world's second largest education publisher overall.

SPARC's filing lays out how the merger would violate the Clayton Antitrust Act, creating a combined company that would control 45% of the college textbook market. Along with Pearson, which currently holds approximately 40%, this merger would consolidate the textbook market in the hands of only two players-remaking the market as a duopoly.

The merger has raised alarm bells across the education sector, with opposition also being voiced by student governments and consumer organizations.

The college textbook market is a classic example of a 'captive market' where students are required to buy whatever book they have been assigned no matter the cost. In the last two decades, the cost of textbooks has far outpaced inflation, home prices, medical care, and wages. According to the Consumer Price Index, consumer prices for college textbooks have increased 184% since 1998, three times the rate of inflation. More than two-thirds of college campuses consider textbook affordability a major concern.

As textbooks and other course materials transition to digital, the amount of data publishers can collect about the students who use them will grow exponentially-often without students even knowing it. This data can be fed into algorithms that can classify a student's learning style, assess whether they grasp core concepts, decide whether a student qualifies for extra help, or identify if a student is at risk of dropping out. While some of these uses might be helpful to students, the same data can also be used in negative ways-from mischaracterizing an individual's abilities to violating privacy rights. Monopolistic activities are a problem when it comes to personal data just as much as traditional markets.

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AAP files comments urging FTC to scrutinise dominant online platforms more closely
- 28 Jun 2019

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) filed comments with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) -in connection with the Commission's hearings on Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century-urging the Commission to more closely scrutinise the behavior of dominant online platforms that pervade every aspect of the economy.

In its 12-page filing, AAP underscores the fact that dominant technology platforms exercise extraordinary market power in the markets for book distribution and Internet search: "No publisher can avoid distributing through Amazon and, for all intents and purposes, Amazon dictates the economic terms, with publishers paying more for Amazon's services each year and receiving less in return."

AAP also stresses the significant role that platforms play in facilitating transactions for unauthorized books. Amazon's approach to its online bookstore enables "widespread counterfeiting, defective products, and fake reviews that both degrade the consumer experience and diminish the incentives of authors and publishers to create new works and bring them to the marketplace."

With respect to search, AAP notes that Google's complete and untouchable dominance is highly problematic "because its business model is largely indifferent to whether consumers arrive at legitimate or pirated goods."

In all, AAP points the FTC to five primary areas of concern: (i) platforms exercising extraordinary market power in the markets for book distribution and Internet search; (ii) the threat to competition when platforms act as both producers and suppliers to the marketplaces they operate; (iii) platforms' imposition of most-favored nation clauses and other parity provisions that stifle competition, market entry, and innovation; (iv) platforms' use of non-transparent search algorithms and manipulated discovery tools that facilitate infringement and deceive consumers; and (v) platforms' tying of distribution services to the purchase of advertising services.

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LIBER welcomes final compromise text for EU's Directive on Copyright in Digital Single Market
- 15 Feb 2019

Negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council have agreed a final compromise text for the European Union's Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

The proposed Directive, which has been nearly three years in the making, contains many positive developments for Europe's library, education and research community.

Notably, it represents a hugely significant step forward in the way that researchers, libraries, and citizens can use in-copyright works.

Despite the worthy introductions, LIBER remains apprehensive about Articles 11 and 13, and their potentially negative impact on education and research.

Article 11 (link tax) introduces a new right for publishers, under which copyright will apply to the use of anything more than very short extracts of news stories. LIBER shares the concerns of academics in terms of how this may affect the free flow of information.

Article 13 relates to online content sharing services and introduces new obligations on organisations who allow end users to upload content to their platforms. Academic repositories are, thankfully, exempt from Article 13 but the overall effect on the sharing and reuse of content - and the knock-on effect on knowledge creation, which libraries heavily support - is concerning.

Although the compromise text of the Directive is now final, it must still gain the approval of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI). That will be followed by a vote in Council and, finally, a vote in the plenary of the European Parliament - due to happen sometime between late-March and mid-April. MEPs could, in the Plenary vote, choose to cancel or introduce changes to the bill.

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IFLA joins call for deletion of articles 11 and 13 in the EU copyright reform
- 04 Feb 2019

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), along with 89 organisations, defenders of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information, has co-signed a letter asking for the deletion of controversial articles in the proposed European copyright directive. IFLA had already openly underlined the threat posed by these provisions to access to information. There is right now momentum for their deletion.

Disagreement between Germany and France on Article 13 lay behind a delay in the supposedly last round of discussions on the copyright directive. The Council of Ministers - made up of Member States - could therefore not adopt its mandate to go to the last negotiations with the Parliament and the Commission.

While these two countries disagree on a specific aspect of Article 13, which would force internet platforms to filter all user-uploaded content, several others have called for its deletion. They rightly argue that there has been too much disagreement along the way, proving that there are deep and fundamental flaws in both this, and in Article 11, which provides a new right for press publishers.

IFLA has consistently advocated for solutions that would make these articles less bad for research and library services; however, technical discussions are over, and although research repositories are more or less exempted, the solution is not yet good enough.

With very positive provisions having been agreed in other parts of the Directive, it is mainly these two articles that would make the Directive a failed attempt to adapt Europe's copyright to the digital age and to a harmonised digital market.

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Appeals Court reverses district court's fair use decision in Cambridge University Press v. J.L. Albert
- 22 Oct 2018

In an opinion released October 19, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously reversed the district court's fair use decision in Cambridge University Press v. J.L. Albert and agrees with publishers reversing the GSU litigation involving the unauthorized use of numerous copyrighted works. The appeals court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its instructions.

In reversing the district court's erroneous findings and vacating the award of attorney's fees, the appellate panel for the second time rejected what it called a 'mathematical formula' of fair use in favour of a 'qualitative consideration of each instance of copying in the light of its particular facts.'

This kind of careful scrutiny and detailed application is essential to the efficacy of copyright law, whether in the print or digital environment. As the Supreme Court noted in its landmark Campbell v. Acuff-Rose decision, the four statutory factors may not 'be treated in isolation, one from another. All are to be explored, and the results weighed together, in light of the purposes of copyright.'

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