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The New Textbook Frontier

Information is freer than ever in campus communities with two recent legal developments, both in the monetary and the ethical sense of the word.

The long-awaited implementation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed in 2008, means students can purchase textbooks for closer to nothing than ever in recent memory. From now on, publishers must inform professors of the cost of their textbooks and offer bundled materials for sale separately.

The rising cost of textbooks is no secret and students have been developing ways to circumvent high prices for years. At UC Berkeley, students have created websites on which they can sell textbooks directly to each other. The campus also hosts free reader fairs where students can pick up course readers from past years. And, of course, there’s always the library.

On top of lower prices making information in textbooks easier to access, the rolling back of some provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1996) will make more information legally accessible for academics.

The new exemptions to the act allow teachers and others who disseminate information, such as documentary film makers, increased access to copyrighted materials. Additionally, jailbreaking phones is now legal, which means people can do things like download extensions and applications otherwise unavailable on their phones.

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