According to BoingBoing, the Harvard University campus bookstore has just come under fire for claiming ‘copyright’ and ‘intellectual property’ to prevent students from comparison shopping their textbooks. The bookstore has thrown students out for taking notes on prices, and actually called the police on three students for writing down the ISBNs of various textbooks.
Harvard’s campus bookstore, run by US chain Barnes & Noble, has apparently claimed these students are in breach of copyright law. However, lawyers from Harvard’s own law school have criticised the bookstore, advising them to review ‘Copyright Law 101’. The first thing they would discover is that factual matters (like prices) are not copyrightable. Then they might want to think about the fact that if anyone owns the ISBN of a textbook, it’s probably the publisher.
Among the interesting responses to the BoingBoing posts included accounts of a Kentucky university bookstore that used stickers to cover up the ISBNs of its books, and would not disclose prices until you reached the register. One post also recorded a textbook comparison shop: Harvard store totaled $410, Amazon totaled $250.