Boston Business Litigation Filed Against Free Online Textbook Company

An online textbook service is entangled in Boston business litigation, after three of the textbook industry’s top manufacturers alleged copyright infringement. pages.jpg

Our Boston business litigation attorneys understand that there are going to be challenges with any business model, no matter how brilliant the plan. However, one of the ways you can head off costly legal issues is to hire a small business attorney before you open your doors or go live online. A Boston business attorney can help to review your business model, your marketing and even the details of your product to help make sure you’re not going to run into trouble.

In this case, a company called Boundless Learning aimed to market free, online college textbooks. It had raised about $8 million from investors and, just as the fundraising closed, it was hit with this Boston business lawsuit.

Specifically, the older textbook publishers say that Boundless Learning copied material straight from their books on psychology, economics and biology. The suit claims that Boundless Learning is trying to rip them off, by employing people to essentially paraphrase the information in their textbooks, which can be sold at upwards of $200 per book in college bookstores.

The lawsuit, deviating somewhat from the somewhat bland language of many Boston business litigation suits, claims that Boundless Learning “gets an ‘F’ in originality.”

The CEO for the new start-up said he and his Boston business litigation attorneys plan to fight the allegations, saying they don’t copy anything. While the site is not yet live, he said the site has beta tested with several thousand college students over the last several months, and expects to begin marketing efforts before the end of the summer – just in time for the fall semester. The CEO went on to say that the lawsuit is not about copyright infringement, but rather a dying industry that feels threatened by innovation. And, in fact, the textbook manufacturers are embroiled in another suit with a similar digital textbook service.

The traditional publishers say that the start-up is very specific in the textbook titles its service can be used to replace. What’s more, the plaintiffs allege that the online books even put the content in the same order, in some cases on the same pages, and have allegedly ripped off photos, illustrations, captions and other original content. The CEO, when pressed by reporters about where exactly the content originates, was vague, saying freelancers and “open information” are to be credited. A lot of the content, he said, is based on standard information you would find on a college syllabus in any of those courses.

And the web-based product is different in that it offers unique digital study guides and highlighting. And what’s more, it’s free – something that no doubt appeals to cash-strapped college students. The goal, the CEO said, is to lay out most of the information you would find in any college textbook, but to do so in a manner that better engages students.

Our Boston business litigation attorneys will be closely following this case to see what grade the judge hands down.

A Boston corporate law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

Additional Resources:

Boston Bar Assosiation