Open Coursebook in Intellectual Property

Cover of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society and link to purchase at Amazon.comDuke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain is announcing the publication of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society—Cases and Materials by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins. This book, the first in a series of Duke Open Coursebooks, is available for free download under a Creative Commons license. If you do not want to use the entire casebook you can view and download the individual chapters (in a variety of formats) here. It can also be purchased in a glossy paperback print edition for $29.99, $130 cheaper than other intellectual property casebooks.

About the book

This book is an introduction to intellectual property law, the set of private legal rights that allows individuals and corporations to control intangible creations and marks—from logos to novels to drug formulae—and the exceptions and limitations that define those rights. It focuses on the three graphmain forms of US federal intellectual property—trademark, copyright and patent—but many of the ideas discussed here apply far beyond those legal areas and far beyond the law of the United States.

The book is intended to be a textbook for the basic Intellectual Property class, but because it is an open coursebook, which can be freely edited and customized, it is also suitable for an undergraduate class, or for a business, library studies, communications or other graduate school class. Each chapter contains cases and secondary readings and a set of problems or role-playing exercises involving the material. The problems range from a video of the Napster oral argument to counseling clients about search engines and trademarks, applying the First Amendment to digital rights management and copyright or commenting on the Supreme Court’s new rulings on gene patents.comic page

Cover of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society -- Selected Statutes and Treaties and link to purchase at Amazon.comIntellectual Property: Law & the Information Society is current as of August 2014. It includes discussions of such issues as the Redskins trademark cancelations, the Google Books case and the America Invents Act. Its illustrations range from graphs showing the growth in patent litigation to comic book images about copyright. The best way to get some sense of its coverage is to download it. The Center has also published an accompanying supplement of statutory and treaty materials that is available for free download and low cost print purchase.

Why An Open Coursebook Project?

From the Introduction:

“Why do we do this? Partly, we do it because we think the price of legal casebooks and materials is obscene. Law students, who are already facing large debt burdens, are required to buy casebooks that cost $150–$200, and “statutory supplements” that consist mainly of unedited, public domain, Federal statutes for $40 or $50. The total textbook bill for a year can be over $1500. This is not a criticism of casebook authors, but rather of the casebook publishing system. We know well that putting together a casebook is a lot of work and can represent considerable scholarship and pedagogic innovation. We just put together this one and we are proud of it. But we think that the cost is disproportionate and that the benefit flows disproportionately to conventional legal publishers. Some of those costs might have been more justifiable when we did not have mechanisms for free worldwide and almost costless distribution. Some might have been justifiable when we did not have fast, cheap and accurate print on demand services. Now we have both. Legal education is already expensive; we want to play a small part in diminishing the costs of the materials involved.”

Frequently Asked Questions:


So this is just about saving students money?

Not a bad idea! But no, this is not just about price. Our point is not only that the current casebook is vastly too expensive, it is also awkward, inflexible, lacking visual stimulus, incapable of customization and hard to preview and search on the open web. Casebooks do not respond well to the different needs of different professors. Students cannot easily be given free, searchable digital access to all the materials, on all their devices, anywhere, access that does not go away when the course—or the publisher—ends. We can do that.

There are also lots of people outside of law school, or outside this country, who would like to know more about American law—just as there are people outside of computer science who want to know about artificial intelligence. Free is a good price-point for them. Customizable is a good form. This book is merely a beta-test version, but it is an example of what can be done.

The casebook is published under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non Commercial, Share-Alike license. It is available in two ways. First, it can be downloaded for free. No digital rights management. No codes. No expiring permissions. In the weeks to come we will put up a webpage offering downloads of individual and editable chapters. Second, a low cost but high quality paperback version is available at a reasonable price. Our goal has been to keep the price of the casebook below $30—which given the possibility of resale, might make it an environmentally attractive alternative to printing out chapters and then throwing them away. (The companion statutory supplement is available under a similar arrangement—$10 in print and freely downloadable.) We also hope both of these options are useful for those who might want to use the books outside the law school setting or outside the United States. The casebook and the statutory supplement will be available for a combined price of $40, which is $200 below the price of the leading alternatives in those categories. Those who do not want, or cannot afford, to pay that price can use the free digital versions.

Back to FAQs

Is this part of some kind of trend?

We hope so. This is the first in a series of free/low cost legal educational materials to be published by Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain—starting with statutory supplements aimed at the basic classes. The goal of this project, and that of other ones such as the Berkman Center’s fascinating H20 project, or eLangdell, is creatively to improve the pricing and access norms of the world of legal textbook publishing, while offering the flexibility and possibility for customization that unfettered digital access provides. We hope it will provide a pleasant, restorative, competitive pressure on the commercial publishers to lower their prices and improve their digital access norms.

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Why have a paper version at all?

We have heard from several colleagues, both those who ban laptops in class and those who do not, that an environmentally friendly alternative to printing out statutes and throwing them away would be desirable, particularly one that came with first sale rights and cost less than the comparable course-packet from the law school’s photocopying center.

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What’s the catch? What kinds of DRM or licensing restrictions are there?

No DRM! The casebook is under a CC BY:NC:SA license. It requires attribution, permits any non commercial use and tells those who modify that they must share the freedoms they were given. After that? It is free to download. Free to copy. Free to modify.

The statutory supplement is under a CC: BY license, allowing unlimited reproduction and modification, including for commercial purposes. If you can undercut our commercial price on the statutes, go right ahead! We’d be delighted! Of course, the underlying statutes and treaties are in the public domain. You can use those without any restrictions. But if you want our preface, chart and editorial comments, you have at least to give attribution.

Back to FAQs

What formats is the casebook available in?

PDF and print for now—other formats (and modular versions) coming soon.

Back to FAQs

So you are against professors who want to be paid for their work and time?

On the contrary. In fact, one of the things we have learned in this process is how poorly both authors and students are being treated by the current system. The authors of casebooks and statutory supplements are generally

a.) unable to give their students digital access to the very books they have just written—unless it is fettered by digital rights management,

b.) unable to customize the material—omitting unwanted chapters or statutes, or adding in new material on the fly,

c.) and—despite the obscene prices on the books—given a relatively low share of the proceeds. All the disadvantages of profiteering with none of the advantages! Personally, we chose to keep the cost as low as possible, but we are fully aware of the labor and creativity required to put together a casebook—we just created one. It does not seem unreasonable to expect a reward to encourage that kind of activity in the future.

Suppose a professor chose to self-publish with a print-on-demand service. (We used CreateSpace, but there are many others.) Suppose she wanted to create an 825 page paperback, 7 in. x 10 in. casebook of her own. (Those are the same dimensions as the typical statute book and about twice as many pages.) Suppose she decided to price it at $60—which would be $100–$120 cheaper than the current casebook she assigns. (Though those, to be fair, are both in hardcover and even larger.) We calculate her per book royalty would be about $25 if bought on Amazon, $13 if bought in a bricks and mortar store; comparable to or larger than her royalty in a conventional publishing contract. Values vary, but to us, saving your debt-strapped students $100 each, while getting that degree of editorial control and that breadth of dissemination, seems like a pretty good deal.

We will be honest. We want very much to tip the norm towards free, unregulated digital access—so the whole world and not just her class can learn from her materials. And we think $60 is high—though not as bad as $160 or $200! But she could require the purchase of a paper copy, which her students could resell when the class is over, while also giving her students free digital access, and get much wider dissemination of and impact from her ideas.

Back to FAQs

What effect will efforts like this have on the textbook industry?

We think it alone will have zero effect. Our initiative is utterly insignificant, less than a fleabite—just a proof of concept. But we actually hope that the inexorable multiplication of projects such as these will be an aid to those still publishing with conventional textbook publishers and—long term—a benign influence on the textbook industry as a whole. To the casebook author trapped in contracts with an existing publishing house: remember when you said you needed an argument to convince them to price your casebook and your supplement more reasonably? Or an argument to convince them to give you more options in making digital versions available to your students in addition to their print copies, but without taking away their first sale rights? Here is one such argument. There are many more either already out there or in the pipeline, all offering slightly different versions of lower cost educational material that can be freely customized. Traditional textbook publishers can compete with free. But they have to try harder. We will all benefit when they do.

Back to FAQs

No one will buy if there is a free digital version. Right?

We disagree. And so do some of the empirics.

Read this and then this.

Back to FAQs

But what about a salesforce? How would that professor be able to get others to adopt her book without mailing it to everyone or having insistent salespeople pounding the halls?

They can read it, instantly, freely anywhere, just by downloading it! They can browse it on the exercise bike or on the train, scan through it on their tablet. Read it in their office. That’s much more efficient. In the world we imagine, professors will be able instantly to browse, search within and assess the pedagogical suitability of a free digital version of a casebook online. Perhaps this will put a merciful end to the never-ending cascade of free but unread casebooks in cardboard mailing boxes and charming but unwelcome casebook representatives in natty business suits; the 1950’s distribution mechanism for the casebook in the halls of the 21st century law school. That mechanism needs to go the way of the whale oil merchant, the typing pool and the travel agent. To the extent that the “justification” offered for today’s prices is that they are needed to pay for the last century’s distribution methods, we would have to disagree politely but emphatically.

Back to FAQs

How long to get an actual copy of the book?

We’ve found it takes about 5 days. Your mileage may vary.

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Back to this book. What’s in it? Can I have a review copy?

Download it and see. That’s your review copy.

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Even if you were to help save students some money on textbooks, legal education will still be very expensive, so therefore you should do nothing.

Sure. Have a nice day.

Back to FAQs 

About the authors

James BoyleJames Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and the former Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons. His other books include The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind; Shamans, Software and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society; Cultural Environmentalism (with Lawrence Lessig); and Bound By Law (with Jennifer Jenkins).


JennifProf. Jennifer Jenkinser Jenkins is Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School and the Director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Her recent articles include In Ambiguous Battle: The Promise (and Pathos) of Public Domain Day and Last Sale? Libraries’ Rights in the Digital Age. She is the co-author, with James Boyle, of Bound By Law and the forthcoming Theft! A History of Music.


From the Blog

  • (When) Is Copyright Reform Possible?

    I am posting here a draft of a chapter for Ruth Okediji’s forthcoming book on the possibilities of international intellectual property reform.  In my case, the article recounts the lessons I learned from being part of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property in the UK.

    “In the five months we have had to compile the Review, we have sought never to lose sight of David Cameron’s “exam question”. Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth? The short answer is: yes. We have found that the UK’s intellectual property framework, especially with regard to copyright, is falling behind what is needed. Copyright, once the exclusive concern of authors and their publishers, is today preventing medical researchers studying data and text in pursuit of new treatments. Copying has become basic to numerous industrial processes, as well as to a burgeoning service economy based upon the internet. The UK cannot afford to let a legal framework designed around artists impede vigorous participation in these emerging business sectors.” Ian Hargreaves, Foreword: Hargreaves Review (2011)

    Read the chapter.

  • Apple Updates — A Comic

    sampleEver been utterly frustrated, made furious, by an Apple upgrade that made things worse?  This post is for you.  (With apologies to Randall Munroe.)

  • Open Coursebook in Intellectual Property

    Cover of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society and link to purchase at Amazon.comDuke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain is announcing the publication of Intellectual Property: Law & the Information Society—Cases and Materials by James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins. This book, the first in a series of Duke Open Coursebooks, is available for free download under a Creative Commons license. If you do not want to use the entire casebook you can view and download the individual chapters (in a variety of formats) here. It can also be purchased in a glossy paperback print edition for $29.99, $130 cheaper than other intellectual property casebooks.

    read more

  • So you’ve invented fantasy football, now what?

    We are posting excerpts from our new coursebook Intellectual Property: Law and the Information Society which will be published in two weeks is out now! It will be is of course  freely downloadable, and sold in paper for about $135 less than other casebooks.  (And yes, it will include  discussions  of whether one should ever use the term “intellectual property.” )  The book is full of practice examples..  This is one from Chapter One, on the theories behind intellectual property: “What if you came up with the idea of Fantasy Football?”  No legal knowledge necessary.  Why don’t you test your argumentative abilities…?

  • Free/Low Cost Intellectual Property Statutory Supplement

    Today, we are proud to announce the publication of our 2014 Intellectual Property  Statutory Supplement as a freely downloadable Open Course Book. Statutes Cover  It offers the full text of the Federal Trademark, Copyright and Patent statutes (including edits detailing the changes made by the America Invents Act.)  It also has a number of important international treaties and a  chart which compares the various types of Federal intellectual property rights — their constitutional basis, subject matter, length, exceptions and so on.You can see it here in print, or download it for free, here

  • Persnickety Snit

    This is the fourth in a series of postings of material drawn from our forthcoming, Creative Commons licensed, open coursebook on Intellectual Property.  It is about lawyers and language. 

  • Macaulay on Copyright

    Macaulay’s 1841 speech to the House of Commons on copyright law is often cited and not much read.  In fact, the phrase “cite unseen” gains a new meaning.  That is a shame, because it is masterful.  (And funny.) One fascinating moment?  When Macaulay warns that copyright maximalism will lead to a future of rampant illegality, as all happily violate a law that is presumed to have lost all moral legitimacy.

    At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot…  Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create.

    The legal change he thought would do that?  Extending copyright to the absurd length of life plus 50 years.  (It is now life plus 70).  Ah, Thomas, if only you could have been there for the Sonny Bono Term Extension debates.

  • Mark Twain on the Need for Perpetual Copyright

    This is the second in a series of postings of material drawn from our forthcoming, Creative Commons licensed, open coursebook on Intellectual Property.  The first was Victor Hugo: Guardian of the Public Domain The book will be released in late August.

    In 1906, Samuel Clemens (who we remember better by his pen name Mark Twain) addressed Congress on the reform of the Copyright Act.  Delicious.

  • Victor Hugo: Guardian of the Public Domain

    Jennifer Jenkins and I are frantically working to put together a new open casebook on Intellectual Property Law.  (It will be available, in beta version, this Fall under a CC license, and freely downloadable in multiple formats of course.  Plus it should sell in paper form for about $130 less than the competing casebooks. The accompanying statutory supplement will be 1/5  the price of most statutory supplements — also freely downloadable.)  More about that later.  While assembling the materials for a casebook, one gets to revisit the archives, reread the great writers.  Today I was revisiting Victor Hugo.  Hugo was a fabulous — inspiring, passionate — proponent of the rights of authors, and the connection of those rights to free expression and free ideas.

  • “We Need To Start Seeing Other Futures..”

    Today is the second day of “Copyright Week!” Talk about a lede. That sentence has all the inherent excitement of “Periodontal Health Awareness Week” or “‘Hug Your Proctologist! No, After He’s Washed His Hands’ Week.” And that’s a shame. Copyright Week is a week devoted to our relationship with our own culture. Hint: things aren’t going well. The relationship is on the rocks.

  • Discussion: “The Foolish War Against Song-Lyric Websites”

    Professor Alex Sayf Cummings, author of a fascinating book called Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the 20th Century (recommended as a  thought-provoking read)  has an interesting  post up about attempts to shut down music lyric sites such as

  • The Top Ten List of a Conference Planner

    Academics (and others) arrange conferences.  Perfectly normal people are invited to those conferences to speak.  Most of them are just as charming as can be… but then there are the special ones.  This Top 10 List of the special people one has to respond to is devoted to all conference planners everywhere.  Hold your heads up high.  After this, purgatory should be a snap.

  • (EM)I Has A Dream

    EM(I) Has A DreamAugust 28th, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The copyright in the speech is administered by EMI, with the consent of the King family. Thus the speech may not be freely played on video or reproduced and costlessly distributed across the nation — even today. Its transient appearance depends on the copyright owner’s momentary sufferance, not public right. It may disappear from your video library tomorrow. It has even been licensed to advertise commercial products, including cars and mobile phone plans.

  • The Prosecution of Aaron: A Response to Orin Kerr

    Aaron Swartz committed suicide last week.  He was 26, a genius and my friend.  Not a really good friend, but someone I had worked with off and on for 11 years, liked a lot, had laughed with frequently, occasionally shaken my head over and deeply admired.

  • The Hargreaves Review

    An Intellectual Property System for the Internet Age

    James Boyle

    In November 2010, the Prime Minister commissioned a review of the Britain’s intellectual property laws and their effect on economic growth, quoting the founders of Google that “they could never have started their company in Britain” because of a lack of flexibility in British copyright..  Mr. Cameron wanted to see if we could have UK intellectual property laws “fit for the Internet age.”   Today the Review will be published. Its conclusion?  “Could it be true that laws designed more than three centuries ago with the express purpose of creating economic incentives for innovation by protecting creators’ rights are today obstructing innovation and economic growth?  The short answer is: yes.” Those words are from Professor Ian Hargreaves, head of the Review.   (Full disclosure: I was on the Review’s panel of expert advisors.)

  • Keith Aoki — A Remembrance Book

    A slideshow and downloadable book remembering Keith in words and pictures.  You can order a glossy, high quality copy of the book itself here from Createspace or here from Amazon.  We tried to make it as beautiful as something Keith would create.  We failed. But we came close; have a look at how striking it is… all because of Keith’s art.

  • Now THAT is how you teach a class

  • RIP, Keith Aoki

    Our friend, colleague, co-author and brilliant artist and scholar Keith Aoki died yesterday in his house in Sacramento.  He was 55 years old.

  • The Future of the Constitution?

    The Brookings Institution has organized a volume on “The Future of the Constitution” edited by Jeff Rosen and Benjamin Wittes and featuring articles by me, Larry Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Tim Wu and many others.  How will our constitutional tradition deal with the challenges posed by new technologies?  The topics range from possible personhood claims by artificial intelligences, to the future of free speech and the Net, to neuroscience and criminal punishment.  The essays are freely available online. Details after the jump.

  • Presumed Guilty

    My new FT column is up. Shakespeare, copyright, Scott Turow and a shadowy group of law professors..  What could be more fun? Ungated version after the jump. 

  • Waiting for ‘Waiting for Godot’

    What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2011?
    read more

  • Fantasy & Reality in Intellectual Property Policy

    My new column for the FT is up.  It deals with the incredible weakness of the data on which our intellectual property policy proceeds.   Ungated version after the jump

  • CBC Radio Interview on the History of Copyright

    Nora Young and the folk at CBC’s Spark have done it again, with a really nicely presented episode that includes a feature on copyright.  Nora interviews me about the history of copyright…  in 5 minutes.

  • EFF Pioneer Award Video

    Is here. I appear at 3:25 or so.

  • EFF Party in San Francisco!

    On November 8th, Cory Doctorow, John Perry Barlow, and numerous other digital luminaries will be gathering at the Minna Gallery in San Francisco for the EFF’s Pioneer Awards Party.  Cory is going to be the MC and — when not featured on XKCD blogging from a ballon in a red cape and goggles…

  • Follow thepublicdomain on Twitter.



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