Pearson's takedown notice over a quote from a 1974 textbook shuts down 1.45 million edublogs

EduBlogs, a service that hosts 1.45 million educational blogs, had all 1.45 million of them taken offline for 12 hours because their $70K/year hosting company, ServerBeach, pitched a wobbly after receiving a takedown notice from Pearson Publishing. Pearson was upset over a five-year-old blog post where a teacher had quoted 279 words out of an article written in 1974. They sent the takedown notice to their host. EduBlogs deleted the post, but it was still present in their database, so ServerBeach punished them by removing 1.45 million peoples' sites.

Now, like I said, the list only runs to 20 questions, sub 300 words, and I think is a pretty important and useful resource for teachers to share with their students.

But clearly Pearson isn’t making enough money already, and intends to, rather that let this 38-year old work be shared, discussed, used, even in a way that might save some people’s lives, on the internet.

Instead it wants a regular teacher to handover $120 for it.

Here’s another idea Pearson, maybe one that you could take from Edublogs, howabout you let this tiny useful list be freely available, and then you sell your study materials / textbooks and other material around that… maybe use Creative Commons Non Commercial Attribution license or similar to make sure you get some links and business.

Or at the very least contact us directly about it.

Rather than being assholes and stuffing up hundreds of thousands of teachers and students through getting your lawyers to lay into our less-than-satisfactory hosts :(

ServerBeach takes 1.45 million edublogs offline just 12 hours after sending through a Pearson DMCA notice for a 20 question list… (via Techdirt)


  1. “Is that the sound of the Streisand effect kicking in.” I ask myself as I click on the link for the Google cache of the list.

    1. I dunno. Does it sound like this?


      (Beck, 1974)

      This questionnaire consists of a list of twenty statements. Please read the statements carefully one by one.

      If the statement describes your attitude for the past week, including today, write ‘T’ or ‘true’. If the statement is false for you, write ‘F’ or ‘false’. Please be sure to read each sentence.


      1) I look forward to the future with hope and enthusiasm

      2) I might as well give up because there’s nothing I can do to make things better for myself

      3) When things are going badly, I am helped by knowing that they can’t stay that way for ever


      1. NO! You fool!! You’ve opened a money black hole!  All the potential licensing fees are getting sucked into oblivion via the gateway of your post!  The economy is imploding through this one portal!  We will have no more money ever!

  2. 20) There’s no use in really trying to get something I want because I probably won’t get it.

    1. 1.4 mil edu blogs? LOL Wait til Romney wins, it’ll be ALL edu blogs, plus ass rape for the students and the streets for the teachers.

  3. Let’s also be fair here and note that 20 questions–nearly 300 words–was the entire content of the BHS scale.  From the looks of it, a discussion could easily be just as informative with half or a third of the questions as examples instead of the entire questionnaire.
    To add a bit from my reading up on fair use: Criteria/factor 3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. I believe this falls flat with any defense there. And a few sentences on Wikipedia back up that historically this doesn’t fit in the fair use defense.

    1.  read the linked article – they don’t claim fair use. they deleted the offending post but had their entire network taken offline anyway because of a cached copy.

      1. Yes, I get that they deleted it and it was taken offline for a crappy reason.  BUT, they seem to be fairly defensive and non-remorseful about the content.  The ‘pitch’ in the third paragraph is exactly that (after all, they do wait until about halfway through the story to semi-admit to it being wrong: “whether or not we liked it Pearson were probably correct about it”).  To paraphrase and read between the lines in that third paragraph: “A while ago he ‘shared’ this item, didn’t get caught at the time so it must not be a huge deal, and he posted a few questions with 300 words from an ancient report”

        1. This is the equivalent of, because you were pirating a couple MP3s over bittorrent, the municipal lines carrying internet service into town have been cut.

          Are they in violation of copyright? Pretty much. Was the nuclear option pursued almost immediately? The effective population of Hiroshima was ~350,000 on August 6th, so the comparison is apt in terms of direct population impact, although I’ll be the first to point out that this wasn’t an actual nuclear bomb and nobody died from the 12-hour outage.

    2. I believe the fair use criteria are more complex than that, and include consideration of what proportion of the ENTIRE work was copied, whether the copying was for commercial use, and what impact there would be on the owner’s revenue from the work. I’d call it differently than you; the list is not the entire copyrighted work at issue, and was not reproduced for commercial use. Then again, neither of us are judges or copyright lawyers, so whatever.

      The DMCA is there to avoid having to go to the trouble of establishing the legality of your claims.

    3. Given that these 20 questions have been frequently used and published in the scientific literature, I would say that it is questionable if the copyright is possible to enforce. Also, I’m curious if, say, springer got permission for the following article, which is open access and contains the questionnaire in full: 

  4. First, Microsoft steals software and money from players because they play 1 pirated game and now this?  Corporations need to be put in check and we need an online bill of rights.

  5. A psychologist administering such a test has to pay for a copy PER PATIENT. Why should a teacher be able to end-run around that?

    Actually, he’s lucky he didn’t also face criminal charges (with Pearson merely reporting the crime to his state’s attorney general) for practicing psychology without a license.

    Yes, that’s the state of the law today.  You want it changed, lobby Congress. Be sure that your checkbook is open, because why should they listen to someone who isn’t paying when there are lots of people who are?

    1. You can’t be serious. You think posting a list of questions online that relate to psychology should equate to “practicing psychology without a licence”? 

      You also seem to believe that the actions of one person, operating a user-generated-content website should have ramifications for all other users of that website? Every time someone uploads a video that infringes copyright onto youtube, should youtube be shut down for 24 hours? 

      1. What makes you presume I think that the state of the law is a good thing?

        But the state of DMCA complaints is just that – the copyright owner complains, the site gets taken down. (It can be put back, by having the content owner assert that it’s noninfringing and consent to be a defendant in a copyright case about it.)

        An easy fix to the law would be to make the complainant liable for consequential damages from the site shutdown if they fail to bring suit after a DMCA counternotice.  What are the chances of anything like that passing? I’d give better odds on a law requiring someone in the teacher’s position to indemnify the other users of a site against the consequences of a shutdown.)

        And as far as “practicing psychology without a license” – whether the AG would take the case depends on the size of the campaign contribution.

        Yeah, I’m in a cynical mood today.

        1. Once notice is given to the service provider, or in circumstances where the service provider discovers the infringing material itself, it is required to expeditiously remove, or disable access to, the material.

          The material. Not every website vaguely associated with the infringing content.

          As I said, it was a series of user generated blogs. By the same logic, You Tube, Tumbler, WordPress, etc, etc should all be pretty much permanently down.

  6. Why is everyone beating on Pearson when the culprit is clearly ServerBeach. You can question the wisdom of Pearson’s takedown request, and I do, but they were clearly within their rights. There is no way that posting a copyrighted work in its entirety, so matter how brief, is fair use. But all ServerBeach had to do to comply with the request was to take down the single offending page. That’s what, say, YouTube does. Nuking all of the Edublogs blogs was unconscionable. Edublogs needs to retrieve its content and find a new hosting service.

    1. ServerBeach was the colo provider. It didn’t have that level of control over Edublogs. The Edublogs administrators could have – and did – take down the single offending page, but missed removing it from a Varnish cache.

    2. Or maybe get us a system of laws where the hosting site doesn’t feel they have to go above and beyond in response to these things to avoid they very real threats of lawsuits bankrupting them.
      The penalties for not doing enough to make them happy is being sued out of business, even if you complied within the letter of the law.  Its lazy and stupid to just nuke the sites from orbit, until you consider they might go out of business if the lawyers on the other side launch a very large and costly lawsuit against them.
      Not everyone has Googles money to fight the asinine lawsuit(s) from Viacom.  Sort of like the people who fight back against patent trolls and end up winning… at the cost of having to sell the business off at fire sale prices to cover the legal bill.

  7. Dear Pearson,

    This is why I just spent the last two hours writing a quiz for my students, rather than using the online-quiz system that you so thoughtfully provided for the introductory textbook my class is using.  Because, while you kindly gave me free access to the quizzes, you’ll only let my students take them if they’ve paid the full $120 for a new copy of the textbook.

    (Now if only the students would read the textbook before taking the quiz, we might have something.)

    An overworked TA.

  8. “People being assholes” is not the core of the problem. “Laws allowing people to be assholes” is. And that in turn leads us to

  9. Pearson apologizes for any inconvenience caused to users and readers of blogs hosted by Edublogs this week.

    As a learning and information company, Pearson values the open and free exchange of ideas.

    However we needed to address one post and one sensitive issue: the publication online of one of Pearson’s clinical tests. This particular test is used by clinical psychologists to assess people who may be at risk of suicide. Publication and any subsequent misuse of the test questions can compromise the integrity of the test results, and in turn the recommendations made by the qualified professionals.

    It is a matter of deep regret that, in responding to our request to address this single item, a server hosting company took much broader action.

    1. I’ve love to know how and it what way a test can be compromised by people reading, discussing and critiquing? Its not a school exam, its an psych eval. A person taking that quiz is not going to decide to provide false answers just because he’s seen it online. And shink wouldn’t stop using a test just because its been published. Its still a useful set of questions regardless of who has seen them. I hope this gets made into some nice artwork so you can decide to sue someone for “sculpture with beck’s scale”. This sounds like the bru-ha-ha over the Wikipedia entry on Rorschach tests.

  10. Really?  It can’t be posted because people might misuse it? It isn’t as if the article is only available with proof of credentials.  This was about copyright.  Don’t pretend it was anything else.

    I’m sharing this story because you lied.  Just one more reason to boycott Pearson.

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