There is something depressing and chilling when the most dystopian prophecies come true. Especially, when those dystopian prophecies are written by Richard Stallman, who has spent the better part of his life trying to tell the world it's going in the wrong direction. Yet, his writing is spot on, only 15 years before its time.
Last week, Joseph Henry Vogel was granted a US patent that aims to prevent students from sharing textbooks or copying pages. Of course all in the name of protecting the authors and publishers. It almost seems as if Vogel got the idea from Stallman's 1997 essay, The Right to Read. He just didn't understand that this was a cautionary tale. The patent itself is actually an interesting read, and touches on problems like universities and professors which "facilitate piracy by placing texts in the library reserve where they can be photocopied". To avoid the loss of revenue from this, students will have to pay for access to a discussion forum, and participation here is part of the final grade. I believe Stallman could claim prior art here, and invalidate the patent. That would of course not help much, as the greed does not go away.
However, maybe not everything is lost. In Stallman's story, the young has been indoctrinated to believe that "sharing books was nasty and wrong - something that only pirates would do". At least the comment threads from Reddit and Torrent Freak show that somebody cares and calls out the emperor's new clothes.
On a side note, the class identifiers for the patent gives further interesting patents. 705/51 - Usage protection of distributed data files, and the sub-class 705/57 - Copy protection or prevention. Some people just want to watch the world burn.