Aspen Doesn’t Want You to Own Your Own Casebooks

Here’s a new assault on the first sale doctrine by Aspen Publishers:

via The Laboratorium

In brief, students, will be required to “buy” a Connected Casebook, which consists of two pieces. First, there is “lifetime access” to a digital version of the casebook, together with various supplementary materials. Second, there is a bound physical version of the casebook, which students can highlight and mark up freely, “but which must be returned to us at the conclusion of the class.”

The obvious goal is to dry up the used book market by draining the supply of used copies. But as Josh points out, it seems unlikely that every student will return the physical book. Rather, reading between the lines, Aspen may argue that the physical book is “licensed” rather than “sold” under the reasoning of cases like Vernor v. Autodesk. The result would be that first sale (the right of the owner of a book, or a DVD, or any other copy of a copyrighted work to resell it freely) would never attach, since the students wouldn’t be “owners” of their physical copies. If Stan Second-Year sells his copy of the new Dukeminier to Fran First-Year, he’d be a copyright infringer in the eyes of Aspen. So too might be Half.com or Barnes and Noble, if they participated in the transaction. Just to make sure that students know they’re only borrowing Aspen’s books and “agree” to those terms, it appears, students will have to purchase Connected Casebook access through Aspen’s website or a participating campus bookstore