September 19, 2012

Canadian students asked to buy $180 art book with no pictures of art


Canadian art students are in revolt after being asked to buy a very expensive art book that, due to a threatened copyright dispute, has blank spaces where the pictures should be.

As far as stories of copyright entanglements go, there are some bad one out there, but asking students to pay $180 for Global Visual and Cultural Material: Prehistory to 1800, which contains no images of said material, is a tall order.

Graeme McNaughton in Canada’s National Post talked with Kathy Shailer, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, who said the book was meant to save students money.

“It would have been over $300 [to require students to buy the two existing texts, which both include artwork], which would have been beyond the pale of what to ask for students,” says Ms. Shailer, adding that not all parts of the individual textbooks are used.”

As Mike Masnick at TechDirt notes, the situation is particularly strange given Canadian courts have indicated that such images would be given fair dealing protections for the purpose of education.

“Students in the class have put up a petition to protest what they quite correctly call a “sham.” It’s even more bizarre given that recent court rulings in Canada would suggest that the images in question would be given pretty broad “fair dealing” protections for the purpose of education. But, just the threat of copyright claims, apparently, are creating an absolutely ridiculous situation.”

To sum it up, Brent Ashley, the father of one of the students says,

“If I am going to have to pay $180 for an art history book that is of no resale value to next year’s students, it had damn well better be an excellent visual reference with hard cover and full colour plates, to keep around for years, festooning my coffee table and that of my heirs.”

Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.