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Boundless Learning demands a jury trial

Theodora Middleton - February 15, 2013 in External, Open Content, Open Textbooks

We’ve been following the case of Boundless Learning on the OKF blg (see here and here), in which the world’s most prominent producer of Open Access textbooks online is being sued by the world’s biggest producers of physical, copyrighted textbooks. In the latest twist to the tale, Boundless have filed their answer, requesting a trial by jury.

The publishers who are pursuing Boundless – Pearson, Cengage and Macmillan’s Bedford, Freeman & Worth – do not allege that any of their content has been plagiarised, or claim copyright on any of the facts or ideas in their books (since it is impossible to claim copyright on such things). Instead they allege that the ’ “selection, coordination and
arrangement” of the unprotectable elements has been pilfered.

Boundless counter that following the same basic order in textbooks “is necessitated by the subject matter and standard in
these fields” – a claim which they believe will be born out through trials over the coming months.

In their press release they say:

At a time when textbook prices have risen at three
times the rate of inflation, Boundless is well along the way to turning around this
escalation by offering equivalent quality, openly-licensed educational materials online at
dramatically lower costs … Boundless
will vigorously deny the overly broad and legally flawed allegations made by the
publishers … Boundless is confident that it will become evident that its digital textbooks do
not violate copyright or any other rights of the plaintiffs.

Boundless have been at the forefront of challenging the oligopoly of the big textbook pubishers, and the outcome of this case will have implications for everyone in the sector. Boundless seem confident that a jury of peers will agree that their efforts are a development in the right direction. The rapidly-expanding world of Open Online Education is watching with baited breath.

Announcing Recline.JS: a Javascript library for building data applications in the browser

Rufus Pollock - July 5, 2012 in Featured, LOD2, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Textbooks, Press, Sprint / Hackday, Texts

Today we’re pleased to announce the first public release of Recline.JS, a simple but powerful open-source library for building data applications in pure Javascript.

For those of you who want to get hands on right away, you can:

recline-map-geo-filter-sf-crime

What Is It?

Recline is a Javascript library of data components incuding grid, graphing and data connectors.

The aim of Recline is to weave together existing open-source components to create an easy to use but powerful platform for building your own data apps.

The views can be embedded in to other apps just like we’ve done for CKAN and the DataHub where it’s used for our data viewer and visualisations.

What makes Recline so versatile is its modularity, meaning you only need to take what you need for the data app you want to build.

Main features:

  • View (and edit) your data in a clean grid / table interface
  • Built in visualizations including graphs, maps and timelines
  • Load data from multiple sources including online CSV and Excel, local CSV, Google Docs, ElasticSearch and the DataHub
  • Bulk update/clean your data using an easy scripting UI
  • Easily extensible with new Backends so you can connect to your database or storage layer
  • Open-source, pure javascript and designed for integration — so it is easy to embed in other sites and applications
  • Built on the simple but powerful Backbone giving a clean and robust design which is easy to extend
  • Properly designed model with clean separation of data and presentation
  • Componentized design means you use only what you need

Who’s Behind It?

Recline has been developed by Rufus Pollock and Max Ogden with substantial contributions from the CKAN team including Adria Mercader and Aron Carroll.

Demos

There are a selection of demos now available on the Recline website for you to try out.

Multiview Demo

reclinejs-demo-multiview-20120705

The Data Explorer

recline-us-unemployment-20120607

Timeliner

recline-timeliner-20120703

Boundless Learning Got Served. What does it all Mean for Open Textbooks?

Katheryn Rivas - May 10, 2012 in External, Open Content, Open Textbooks, Public Domain

If you are at all familiar with the open textbook world, you’ve likely heard of the startup called
Boundless Learning. Leveraging information in the public domain, as well as dipping into the enormous
stockpile of learning that is Open Education Resources, Boundless Learning has a created a tool that
hopes to eventually replace the traditional textbook model.

Just like “open” anything, however, Boundless Learning has not gone without its fair share of trouble
from vested industry interests. Recently, the textbook publishing giant Pearson, along with MacMillan
and Cengage, filed a complaint alleging copyright infringement. Even though Boundless Learning
culls its information from material available to the public through Creative Commons licensing, the
publishers allege that “Defendant [Boundless Learning] exploits and profits from Plaintiffs’ successful
textbooks by making and distributing the free “Boundless Version” of those books in the hopes that it
can later monetize the user base that it draws to its Boundless Web site. In short, to build its business on
Plaintiff’s intellectual property rights.”

Boundless Learning, on the other hand, claims that the accusations are patently false. The startup states
that it only uses information already in the public domain, and said in a Boston.com article, “you can’t
copyright facts and ideas. When you look at educational information, it’s primarily facts and ideas.”
Boundless Learning will soon send out a legal response, and has expressed disappointment that the
textbook publishers didn’t communicate with Boundless Learning amicably before resorting to litigation.

So what does this mean for the open textbook movement? Can we expect more lawsuits of this nature
against innovative businesses? For one, Boundless Learning has truly launched a paradigm-shifting
product. Most open textbooks are presented to students in PDF format using e-readers and other
devices. However, Boundless Learning has extended beyond just digitizing traditional books by offering
more. Their content is distinctly interactive, and students may build upon Boundless Learning material
in a way that closely resembles both Facebook and Wikipedia. You can study along with other students,
help each other in the learning process, and do it all online. For free.

Lawsuits of this sort aren’t anything new, and it’s important for those of us who are believers in the open
textbook movement that we understand what we’ll have to fight against to live in a more open society.
While Boundless Learning may have been careless in copying the format of copyrighted textbooks,
down to the pagination, it does offer a platform that is new, that goes beyond mere open versions of
closed textbooks. It’s with this innovative spirit that we can effectively, legally, and affordably, make
information available to all. The world is not yet open, but we can get it there.

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university. She
welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

The Open Knowledge Foundation is seeking an Editor for Open Text Book!

Jonathan Gray - October 31, 2009 in Exemplars, News, OKF Projects, Open Knowledge Foundation, Open Textbooks

We are seeking an Editor for Open Text Book, one of the highest ranked sites on the web for finding textbooks that you can freely use, reuse and redistribute:

This is a volunteer position requiring a one to two day a month commitment. If you are interested in contributing to the world of open education in general and open text books in particular just get in touch.

Open Text Book Editor

More Information

The Open Knowledge Foundation is looking for an Editor for its Open Text Book project. The project was launched in 2007 after Steve Coast of Open Street Map donated us the domain name. It aims to be a curated one stop shop for open textbooks – that is textbooks anyone is free to access, redistribute, reuse and build upon.

Recently there has been a sharp rise in interest in open textbooks. Earlier this month, a bill was proposed to make all Federally funded textbooks in the State of California available under an open license. Last year saw the start of a student led campaign to make textbooks open – which is currently supported by over 2000 college professors. There now are a plethora of open textbook projects around the world – at different educational levels, for a variety of different subjects. Its an exciting time for open textbooks!

The Open Text Book project aims to be, in the first instance, a simple registry to make it easy to locate open textbooks from many different sources. We have also begun to archive copies of some of the books in a repository. There is plenty of room for expanding the project in the future.

Open Text Book Editor

Responsibilities

We anticipate the Editor will spend one to two days a month on the project. This is a volunteer position and the Editor can be based anywhere in the world. The Editor will be responsible for:

  • Adding new textbooks to the registry on a monthly basis, and curating the repository of mirrored textbooks;
  • Checking the legal status of the textbooks to see that they are compliant with the Open Knowledge Definition;
  • Attending virtual meetings with the Working Group on Open Textbooks;
  • Giving input on the design of the Open Text Book website, and on the future of the Open Text Book project.
Open Text Book Editor

Get in touch!

If you are interested in the position, please get in touch, and let us know:

  • Your name, affiliation, and website (if you have one!)
  • Why you think you’d make a good Editor
  • Your ideas about the future of the Open Text Book project

If you know anyone who you think might be interested to hear about the position – please point them to this post! You can also help spread the word by microblogging the following Identi.ca and Twitter posts:

Open Text Book

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