Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Copyright infringement suit filed against Georgia State University

Press release from The Association of American University Presses:

In todayʼs universities, it is increasingly rare for students to buy assigned books at the campus bookstore or purchase coursepacks at the local copyshop. Instead, professors often distribute assigned course readings electronically through digital course management, e-reserves, or similar systems. While many universities seek legally required permissions, others do not and simply distribute substantial excerpts from books and journals without permission or compensation. This has become a significant problem for university presses, who depend upon the income due them to continue to publish the specialized scholarly books required to educate students and to advance university research.

Against this backdrop, three scholarly publishers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications, have recently filed suit against Georgia State University officials, citing a pattern of illegal distribution of copyrighted book and journal content through digital course management and similar systems controlled by Georgia State. The Association of American University Presses supports the difficult decision made by Cambridge and Oxford, both AAUP members, to take this action — particularly in light of its broad concerns for the critical role that university presses, which are non-profits, play in the world of university instruction and scholarly communications.

The basic legal issue in the suit, namely whether permissions are required for course materials, was forcefully addressed in Basic Books v. Kinkoʼs Graphics Corp. (1991), which held that the coursepacks sold by Kinkoʼs required the payment of permissions fees to publishers, and that the reproduction of a single chapter was “quantitatively [and] qualitatively substantial” under the Copyright Act. While AAUP respects the doctrine of fair use, which permits spontaneous and limited uses of copyrighted material for instruction, it is clear that universities need to seek permission for more regular and substantial uses of excerpts in coursepacks and other assigned reading. That the delivery method for coursepacks is digital rather than print-on-paper does not change the nature of the use or the content, and such uses are governed by the same legal principles established in earlier cases.

. . . In sum, the university community is a complex, integrated system and, while it may seem superficially attractive to distribute published work to students free of charge, scholarly publishing in its current richness cannot survive if universities condone this path.

. . . Several mechanisms currently exist for universities to obtain clearance for the use of these materials, whether through individual publishers or the Copyright Clearance Center. While many universities have adopted a centralized approach and treated electronic course materials as they do paper, Georgia State has flatly rebuffed repeated attempts by publishers to work toward an acceptable university policy and has continued to foster a system of widespread copyright abuse.

The decision to file a suit is never easy, and always a last resort. It is particularly painful for non-profit publishers to sue a university, even if in this situation it was unavoidable. “It feels like suing a member of the family” said AAUP Executive Director Peter Givler. “Unfortunately, the alleged infringement is like stealing from a member of the family.”

See also Publishers Sue Georgia State on Digital Reading Matter in the New York Times.

1 comment:

  1. We have a few college students online from college of Georgia State University and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen , Blog Manager, Georgia State University

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