If you quote it, we'll shoot you
In their ongoing quest to punch every puppy they can find, rights holders have turned to suing those most rapacious of pirates, professors. Academic publishers are asking a judge in Georgia for an injunction against Georgia State University for a liberal fair-use policy. What these publishers are objecting to is unapproved and unpaid-for book and article excerpts in class materials—essentially quoting and anthologizing. They want everything that can be paid for to be paid for. Specifically, professors couldn't use more than 10 percent or 1,000 words of an in-print book, whichever is less. That's about two pages. And it's campus wide—if I use two pages of Robert Jackall's Moral Mazes in my class, no student or teacher can use a third page without paying or getting sued by the publisher of Moral Mazes.
But that's not what fair use is about. It's a limit to copyright baked into the law. In the act itself, it cites a teacher making copies of classroom materials as a fair use. It's part of the copyright bargain; we grant these rights in exchange for material that improves our society as a whole, not so a group of publishers can get a piece of that mad college student money.
Absurd doesn't even begin to cover it.
Look, it's not like college textbook publishers don't have an extortion racket going on already. Hell, there's even recent legislation trying belatedly to curb the worse excesses.
I was somewhat fortunate: ASU was one of the few universities with a book rental system. While helpful, that didn't stop professors from assigning lots and lots of additional books, preferably expensive new editions. Barely having money for food, buying these was out of the question. I managed to pass my classes by borrowing, copying pages, taking copious notes, having a good memory and spending A LOT of time in the library. I was far from the only student in this situation, and I'll never forget the day when, after complaining about the price, a professor told a number of us to "just ask your parents for more money." Fewer things crystallized more clearly the assumption that education is the domain of the wealthy. This is one more move to worsening that divide.
Turns out xkcd was accurately predicting a terrifying dystopia
There's also a risk here I think rights holders still don't grasp. Ideally, when crafting a law, you want something that satisfies both competing interests: publishers get money, the public gets information. The point of this is while neither party gets completely what they want, they get enough that most people obey the law most of the time.
The increasing tilt towards rights holders is reaching such a ludicrous extreme that eventually people just cease obeying the law, consequences be damned. Determined students and professors will just make the copies anyway. What, are the publishers going to find all of them, much less sue?
The result is the equivalent of legal civil war: the occasional brutally sued defendant, but far more people who simply ignore the law. That this sort of scorched earth tactic never works never seems to stop companies from using it.