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.

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Theodora is press officer at the Open Knowledge Foundation, based in London. Get in touch via press@okfn.org