The right to make fair use of copyrighted material is key component to extending the knowledge base of individuals and developing advancements that ultimately lead to a better life. Theft is still theft, though. While much is made of the recent ruling, not much is made of the cautionary note in the ruling which indicates that in deciding fair use the combination of the four factors and if the factors were a bit different in this case, the outcome could have weighed in favor of the plaintiffs. In fact, the court came quite close to giving a percentage of text (@ 20%) that might be “close to the loss of fair use protection.” If you steal the tires off of a car (20% of the vehicle), there would be no question about punishment. Obviously copyrighted ideas are different, but…
Many people have indicated that authors don’t really care about monetary remuneration but in a capitalist system the drive to create is not always a moral imperative. Academics get paid by being awarded tenure which provides financial stability well beyond the royalties of a particular book. The naïve view that publishers simply package already compelling, well-written, and cogent material paints a simplistic picture of the process.
Libraries and faculty are given large amounts of leeway to aid their teaching missions. Publishers are aware of this. Movements to create open-access content are growing. Digital environments can lead to mass copying and distribution no matter what level of policing is available. The improper use of copyrighted material is not a new phenomenon, but the digital age has exacerbated the impact. Universities and faculty would certainly be averse to having their online classes pirated and sold through third parties.
The problem of unintended consequences will rise if this ruling stands without some remediation. Content providers will circumvent copyright and create closed licensing systems. Few people will benefit from this practice. Good scholarship has its costs. Use of that scholarship comes with a fee.