Georgia State Cleared of Most Publisher Infringement Claims

A judge cleared Georgia State University of most copyright violation claims brought by academic publishers including Oxford University Press over using unlicensed book excerpts in course materials.

U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans held the university liable for five copyright-infringement claims, after conducting a non-jury trial last year, according to a filing dated May 11 in Atlanta federal court.

The publishers, which also included Cambridge University Press and Sage Publications Inc., sued in April 2008. They listed 99 alleged infringements, in which professors made portions of works available electronically to students. The university claimed fair use, which under copyright law means that small excerpts can be used for purposes such as teaching or journalism without violation. Georgia State changed its policy in 2009 to insure that professors adhered to fair use guidelines.

“The court does believe that defendants, in adopting the 2009 policy, tried to comply with the Copyright Act,” Evans said in the ruling.

The Association of American Publishers said in a statement today that the judge’s “analysis of fair use principles was legally incorrect in some places and its application of those principles mistaken.” The AAP praised some aspects of the ruling.

No ‘Sufficient Guidance’

“The court held GSU’s new policy accountable for specific infringements,” the AAP said. “The court also criticized the GSU policy for failing to limit unauthorized copying to ‘decidedly small excerpts,’ failing to proscribe unauthorized use of multiple chapters from a single work and failing to provide sufficient guidance to faculty concerning the potentially adverse effect of such mass copying.”

Also sued were the university’s board of regents and its president, Mark Becker.

“The court’s ruling is significant not only for Georgia State University, but for all educational fair use in general,” Becker said in a statement. “Georgia State is pleased to have been a trailblazer in this increasingly complex digital copyright environment.”

The judge told the publishers to file papers within 20 days for the relief they seek on the material found to be infringing. The university will then be able to file any opposition to the proposed relief.

‘Reduce the Chances’

“We are pleased that the District Court ruling recognized that Georgia State University’s flawed 2009 copyright policy resulted in infringement of our works,” Christian Purdy, a spokesman for Oxford University Press, said in an e-mailed statement. “We will work on an injunction that will reduce the chances that GSU will infringe works posted to its eReserve system in the future.”

The works that the judge found were infringed include three editions of “The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research,” “The Power Elite,” and “Utilization-Focused Evaluation.”

Other works listed in the lawsuit included Oxford’s “The Slave Community,” Cambridge’s “Liszt: Sonata in B minor,” and Sage’s “Crabgrass Frontier.”

“In contrast to GSU, we have seen other academic institutions employ a more reasonable approach to fair use and exhibit a greater respect for the intellectual property they use,” Linda Phillips of the Copyright Clearance Center said in an e-mailed statement. The CCC collects royalties from colleges and other organizations for the use of copyrighted materials.

The case is Cambridge University Press v. Becker, 08-01425, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE