Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.9

January 29, 2004


Three strikes, and U Compute decides to stop copying texts

By Tristan Baurick

A small copy shop near Concordia was hit with one of the nation’s largest copyright piracy busts last month.

Bailiffs seized over 2,200 illegally copied textbooks and study guides during the Jan. 7 raid on U Compute, a copy and computer supply store on Mackay St.

Many Concordia students rely on copy shops around the downtown campus to save money on expensive textbooks. Shops that deal in illegally copied books typically work on a print-on-demand basis, producing bound textbook copies when students order them.

Pavan Ojha, an engineering student from India, said U Compute is one of many downtown shops that deal inpirated textbooks. He said many Concordia science students turn to these shops to avoid the high cost of science texts, which can add up to $500 for a semester’s worth of books.

“The cheapest new book I ever bought for class was $65,” Ojha said. “The average price is around $120 for a new engineering book. U Compute was really popular with Concordia students. You go there and pay 20 per cent of what you’d pay for a new science book.”

Physics professor Mariana Frank said she sympathizes with students trying to find cheaper alternatives.

“I understand it’s hard to cope with this, and I wish it were easier to use second-hand books,” she said. Large book publishers make it difficult for students to use older editions by updating texts often. Many of the updates are insignificant and are only done to force students to buy new editions, she said. “All they do is reorder lesson problems so they don’t coincide with the last edition,” she said. “I really wish that practice was abolished.”

However, this practice doesn’t make it right for students to use pirated books, she said. “Even though the publishers are a bit greedy, illegal copying is not the answer.”

Lina Lipscombe, director of the Concordia Bookstore, said surveys suggest students are more likely to buy legal books at full price if the book is actually used in class.

Illegal copying costs the Bookstore money, she added. “Unsold books have to be returned to the publishers for credit. The Bookstore has to pay for transportation each way at the time of ordering and returns.”

Access Copyright, an industry group protecting copyright laws, estimated the seizure represents $250,000 in lost revenue to bookstores, authors and publishers.

“Copy shop owners must honour the rights of our affiliates,” said Roanie Levy, Access Copyright’s director of legal affairs. “No one has the right to copy another’s work without permission. We make it easy for licensees to operate within the law. If they fail to do so, we take action.”

This was the third such raid against the shop, whose spokesperson said they will discontinue the copy aspect of their operations.