The Copyright Rebellion

New lawsuits and policies have hobbled teaching and research. Now scholars are pushing back.

Chronicle Illustration by Bob McGrath

May 29, 2011

The digital age was supposed to put information at our fingertips. Books and data and images on an Internet browser would be just a click away.

Instead, scholars are being denied access to millions of books. Images are not being distributed. Two major universities face lawsuits by book and video publishers for using digital copies in courses. And the U.S. Congress has placed behind the wall of copyright many items that used to be in the public domain.

Why? Aggressive new tactics by publishers and lawmakers, worried that digital distribution is eating into markets, have "thrown everything into turmoil," says John C. Vaughn, executive vice president of the Association of American Universities and the group's intellectual-property point man. "Copyright law and publishers' business plans are preventing an enormous educational benefit."

Some academics have had enough. In a special report, The Chronicle looks at university faculty and staff members who are pushing, in court and on campus, to keep teaching and research from being starved of material.

A Professor Takes His Fight to the Supreme Court

The Million-Book Lockup

Putting Fair Use Forward

2 Universities Under Threat

Advice on Your Legal Rights