About Semaphore Press Students Professors Our Books FAQs



The Semaphore Press publishing model, in a nutshell
Semaphore Press publishes high quality legal casebooks for digital download. We base our suggested price on the premise that students should, and will, pay about $1 per one-hour class session for the required reading material. We ask students to pay the suggested price through the Semaphore Press website, or by sending a check in the mail. But students don't have to pay to obtain access to the material. They can download it without paying for it. We hope that most students will pay, because they recognize the better value proposition that Semaphore Press offers compared to traditional hardbound-casebook publishers.

Why would we let students possibly download full casebooks for free?
We don't encourage free downloading. Our website is designed so that students affirmatively have to choose not to pay. We can't deny, however, that a student can download the book without first paying for it. Why make that possible?

We are as transparent as possible with students, explaining the Semaphore Press business model and the risk that we know we face from potential free riders (please see the Students page). We believe that law students, in particular, will understand the value of our publishing model and of the materials we offer. We trust that they will, with some encouragement from their professors, pay the suggested price (or some approximation of it).

We could require students to pay before they obtain access to the material for download. We choose not to do that for a variety of reasons.

First, as a company founded by two law professors who believe deeply in the value of a high-quality legal education, Semaphore Press wants students to have reasonable access to high-quality educational material. Law school is ferociously expensive, and we've heard stories of talented, ambitious students not buying the required books because they just can't afford them. These students borrow a classmate's book some days, read the copy that is on reserve in the library other days, and some days they simply can't do the reading. We think that is not the way to go about obtaining, or providing, an excellent legal education.

Second, we're not interested in turning law students into copyright infringers, or future lawyers into potential felons. Digital downloads are notorious for their ease of unauthorized reproduction and "sharing." The Copyright Act has very low thresholds for criminal infringement. See 17 U.S.C. 506. We just don't want to go down that path. We would rather let students choose what to pay and have access to the assigned material. It really is that simple.

Print copies of Semaphore Press casebooks are available
Over time, some professors and students have expressed to us an interest in having a convenient way to get a print copy of a Semaphore Press casebook. As print-on-demand services have improved, we have adapted. Three of our titles are available, as soft cover print-on-demand books, from Amazon. We have found the print quality and binding durability to be quite good. Here are the links to Amazon for the three books we make available this way:

• James Grimmelmann, Internet Law: Cases & Problems
• Lydia Loren & Joe Miller, Intellectual Property Law: Cases & Materials
• John Parry, Cases & Problems in Civil Rights Litigation

The prices vary because the length of the books vary, and we set the price to cover Amazon's print cost, Amazon's share of any amount charged above that print cost, and the base price of all Semaphore Press casebooks ($30). Indeed, because our price at Amazon includes the $30 base price for the digital copy, if you purchase a printed copy of one of these three titles you should feel free to download a digital copy of the book from Semaphore Press using the "freeride" button at the bottom of the book's payment page.

Finally, it has always been the case with Semaphore Press casebooks that, if you want a printed hard copy of a book after downloading a digital copy from Semaphore Press, you can print a personal copy for yourself on your printer. There are no printing restrictions or other digital rights management that will prevent you from doing that.  Similarly, you can take your digital copy to a copyshop like FedEx/Kinko's that offers multiple binding methods (see, e.g., FedEx/Kinko's binding options). You have our permission to print and bind a personal copy of your downloaded book.  You'll want to bring a copy of this explanatory letter we've created and provide it to the copyshop to address the copyshop's potential copyright concerns.

Interested in adopting a Semaphore Press book for your course?
We welcome new adoptions of our casebooks or parts of our casebooks. If you would like to consider one of our books for use in a course you are teaching, we welcome your use of the “free rider” option to access a review copy. Once you decide to adopt the book, we ask that you point your students to our home page, www.semaphorepress.com, where they can quickly navigate to the page where they can download the book you've adopted. Please do not direct them to the internal pages of our website, or to the specific page for downloading the particular book you are assigning. It is important that students have an opportunity to understand the value proposition offered by Semaphore Press, and starting at the home page is the best way to do that.

We ask that you complete two steps when you assign one of our books (or parts of one of our books) for a course:

Step 1. Please send an email to adoptions@semaphorepress.com with the following information:

(a) your name and name of your school
(b) name of the book
(c) the course and the number of credit hours for the course
(d) approximate number of class sessions in which material from the Semaphore Press book will be used
(e) enrollment or expected enrollment

This email will help us track our adoptions and assess whether our business model is working. We promise that we won't use your information to spam you, and that we won't share your information with anyone else.

Step 2. Please include one of the two following paragraphs, as appropriate, in the syllabus or assignment sheet that you provide to your students, filling in the blanks accordingly.

For Full Book adoptions:
Required text: <author(s)>, <title>, (Semaphore Press)
This required text is available for download only at www.semaphorepress.com. Semaphore Press uses a publishing model different from the traditional law school casebook publishers. I encourage you to read about Semaphore Press's publishing approach on its website. This book has a suggested price of $30. I urge you to pay the suggested retail price in order to keep high-quality legal educational material available at reasonable prices.

(If this is a title for which Semaphore Press offers a print option through Amazon, you could consider adding the following:
If you prefer, the publisher does offer a print version of this book through Amazon at a higher price. Search for the author and title on Amazon and you will find the current edition for print-on-demand.)

For Partial Book Adoption:
Required text: , <author(s)>, <title>, (Semaphore Press)
This required text is available for download only at www.semaphorepress.com. Semaphore Press uses a publishing model different from the traditional law school casebook publishers. I encourage you to read about Semaphore Press's publishing approach on its website. This publisher suggests that a student pay $1 for each class session in which Semaphore Press material is the assigned reading for the session. We will be using material from this book for [ X ] class sessions. Therefore, I urge you to pay $ [ X ] as the suggested retail price in order to keep high-quality legal educational materials available at reasonable prices.

Interested in Publishing Your Book With Semaphore Press?
We are interested in publishing new titles. As you can see, we approach the business of casebook publishing a bit differently than the traditional publishers. This includes our agreements with authors. We offer a royalty rate that is significantly above the standard royalty offered by traditional hard-copy casebook publishers. Recognizing that the royalty will vary based on payment rates, we do not ask for an assignment of copyright in your work. Instead, we enter into a five-year publishing agreement. At the end of those five years, both the author(s) and Semaphore Press can revisit whether it makes sense to continue publishing the book through this model. Either party can walk away, or enter into a new agreement, at that time.

Some aspects of a traditional casebook publisher remain the same at Semaphore Press. For example, we fully vet the proposals we receive to determine the market viability of the book and the likely level of adoptions. We also engage copy editing of text submitted, including author review of proposed changes and adherence to publishing deadlines worked out with authors.

If you have a proposal you would like us to review, please send an email to proposals@semaphorepress.com.

Have a Comment to Share With Semaphore Press?
What do you think of the Semaphore Press publishing model? We welcome your feedback, comments, and suggestions.
Email us: feedback@semaphorepress.com


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