The Harvard Crimson has been reporting on the Harvard Coop’s silly claims of “intellectual property” against those who come to the bookstore to compare prices. It’s escalated all the way to calling the cops, who wisely refused to throw students out of the store.
We’re not sure what “intellectual property” right the Coop has in mind, but it’s none that we recognize. Nor is it one that promotes the progress of science and useful arts, as copyright is intended to do. While intellectual property may have become the fashionable threat of late, even in the wake of the Recording Industry Association of America’s mass litigation campaign the catch-phrase—and the law—has its limits.
Since the Coop’s managers don’t seem to have read the law books on their shelves, we’d like to offer them a little Copyright 101.
Copyright law protects original works of authorship—the texts and images in those books on the shelves—but not facts or ideas. So while copyright law might prohibit students from dropping by with scanners, it doesn’t stop them from noting what books are on the shelf and how much they cost.
CrimsonReading.org does students a real service by helping them to compare prices efficiently. Harvard should support them in their information-sharing efforts, rather than endorsing the Coop’s attempts to cut off access to uncopyrightable facts.