piracy or helping a student out?

Written by: Rachel Minkin

Primary Source: Information Literacy Resources

There’s a fine line between students helping students and piracy…. and what an amazingly opportune time for this to come to the forefront!

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was providing library instruction to WRA 115, Writing for Law and Justice in the United States. The students and I were modelling research and inquiry into the NSA and Prism… more generally on the topic of privacy and the internet… and we were just at the point where my student group dedicated to finding books on said topic were about to present.

The representative came to the front of the room and pulled up a text on privacy and social media, in its entirety online. I said, “Huh, where’s this coming from?” I could see it wasn’t an e-text through the MSU Libraries but what was it?

The student replied that this was from a site called BookOS…. wow, this WAS interesting! I glanced over at the instructor and she at me… neither of us had heard of it. “Oh yeah,” the student said, “You can get lots of textbooks this way.” The instructor and I exchanged raised eyebrows.

Shortly after the class, the instructor emailed me. She started looking into this site and lo and behold, there is much discussion over the legality of the site and talk of piracy is rampant. Because of the nature of this particular course (law and justice) and the frequent discussions of academic integrity in the classroom, the instructor pointed this out to the students. No word of their response at this time…

As I reflect on this, I am also thinking of times in other classes where students express the ideas of using BitTorrent and the like to see what they can rip. I make a point of telling them that yes, it’s possible to do things that way but no, you’re not going to do things that way… that is not out scholarly communication works. It’s not how we do things in academia.

Have you had these conversations in your classes? How do you address these ideas?

Lovingly written by Rachel Minkin
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Rachel Minkin
Rachel M. Minkin is an Information Literacy Librarian, responsible for leading information literacy sessions for the first-year students taking Tier One Writing class in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures. Prior to beginning at Michigan State in August 2011, Rachel was a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Lansing Community College (Lansing, MI) and the Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA).