February 29, 2012
What Makes Kno Different? Does excerpting function in an eTextbook platform provide users a means to create a derivative work?
Kno is suing Cengage Learning for breaching the license Kno had to sell Cengage Learning textbooks Kno converted into digital editions for Kno's platform. Kno's platfom includes a feature called Journal that allows a reader of a Cengage-Kno e-textbook to create a digital notebook by highlighting passages from the text, clipping images and adding annotations. The textbook reader (aka the note taking student) can later view all this in a separate file within Kno's platform. Cengage considers the Journal function to infringe of its copyrights because the publisher considers it as providing the means to create a derivative work. (A brief video demo of the Journal function can be viewed on Kno's features page. Do note that the feature is currently available only for the iPad.)
When Cengage Learning first raised this concern with Kno, Kno began working to eliminate its notebook function from its platform but Cengage pulled the plug on its licensing agreement anyway. For the moment, Kno continues to sell Cengage titles it has converted to its platform.
In its complaint, Kno argues that it is not infringing Cengage’s copyright by continuing to sell the e-textbooks because it has a valid license to distribute those works. The Journal feature, the complaint adds, does not infringe Cengage’s copyrights because users’ notes constitute fair use of Cengage textbooks content.
Mashable's Sarah Kessler broke the story at Online Store Kno Sues Publisher for Pulling Its Digital Textbooks. See also Nick DeSantis' Wired Campus post, E-Textbook Vendor Sues Publisher for Ending Licensing Agreement, and Kno is Suing Cengage Over Student Annotations – You Should be Worried by Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader ("Part of the reason I know there’s more to this story is that Kno’s Journal is not the first of its kind. The Kindle has supported exporting highlights for some years now, and Cengage still has textbooks in the Kindle Store. What makes Kno different?") [JH]