Sorry, Coop, You Can't Have Our IP

The Harvard Cooperative Society — also known as our campus bookseller (also a Barnes & Noble) — has been claiming that it has an “intellectual property” right in the ISBN numbers and/or prices of the textbooks that we as faculty assign to our students. We’ve got an op-ed in The Crimson this morning disputing their IP claims. It’s fairly certain that The Coop can kick students out of their store for many reasons, but the claim of IP in the facts of what books I and others are assigning to our students is off the mark. I for one certainly never conveyed such a right to the Coop.

And the stated concern that “if we don’t have a monopoly on selling textbooks to Harvard students, we won’t sell them at all” seems unlikely to be right. I suspect someone, if not the Coop, (which, to be clear, has a long and storied tradition — starting with few students getting together to sell books in the late 19th century — and from whom I have bought many books as an undergrad, law student, and otherwise), will be willing to sell books to Harvard students.

1 thought on “Sorry, Coop, You Can't Have Our IP

  1. I’d like to know whether companies like Amazon that provide facts via their Web services but restrict the use of those facts via terms of service have created a way around Feist v Rural?

    Related to the Coop, I’ve been running for some years (a price comparer for books), and textbook season is my big time of year (August and January, mostly). I have heard from many users and some profs that they get in trouble if they promote the use of online stores or price comparison services.

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