September 20, 2007

Harvard University Doesn't Quite Understand the Concept of a Free Market

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Harvard Crimson, the definition of "intellectual property" is running amok at Harvard University (h/t Instapundit)…

Jarret A. Zafran ’09 said he was asked to leave the [Harvard Coop] after writing down the prices of six books required for a junior Social Studies tutorial he hopes to take.

“I’m a junior and every semester I do the same thing. I go and look up the author and the cost and order the ones that are cheaper online and then go back to the Coop to get the rest,” Zafran said….

Coop President Jerry P. Murphy ’73 said that while there is no Coop policy against individual students copying down book information, “we discourage people who are taking down a lot of notes.”

The apparent new policy could be a response to efforts by—an online database that allows students to find the books they need for each course at discounted prices from several online booksellers—from writing down the ISBN identification numbers for books at the Coop and then using that information for their Web site.

Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property.

Obviously, the only rational response to this is to send New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick to the Coop, with a camera he can use to make videotapes of book prices to be broken down and analyzed later (but not during that particular shopping trip).

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Simple solution. Stop writing and use the camera phone.

Posted by: Greg at September 20, 2007 5:54 PM

"Murphy said the Coop considers that information the Coop’s intellectual property."

Sales prices?? It appears Mr. Murphy does yoga; this is a real stretch.

Posted by: Monique at September 21, 2007 8:11 AM

The free markets sometimes work in strange and wondrous ways, don't they, Mr. Murphy?

Posted by: rhody at September 21, 2007 11:37 AM

Isn't evicting people who are recording pricing and other info standard practice at lots of retailers. I believe I've heard Walmart actually posts signs warning customers about this. (Wouldn't know..haven't been in a Walmart in years).

I'm not defending the practice. I'm just saying I don't think the COOP is alone. Interesting, though, that it's not some left-wing group trying to restrict free markets, but businesses themselves. Funny, that.

Posted by: Thomas at September 21, 2007 12:12 PM
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