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Copyright and Fair Use: The Lawsuits

This guide is one-stop shop for understanding Copyright and Fair Use especially in regards to legal use of teaching materials.

Copyright Law Defined

Copyright law, as defined in Title 17 of the United States Code, protects "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" for a limited period. Copyright protection includes, for instance, the legal right to publish and sell literary, artistic, or musical work, and copyright protects authors, publishers and producers, and the public.  Copyright applies both to traditional media (books, records, etc.) and to digital media (electronic journals, web sites, etc.). Copyright protects the following eight categories of works:

  1. literary works
  2. musical works
  3. dramatic works
  4. pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  7. sound recordings
  8. architectural works

Ownership of a copyrighted work includes the right to control the use of that work. Use of such work by others during the term of the copyright requires either permission from the author or reliance on the doctrine of fair use. Failure to do one or the other will expose the user to a claim of copyright infringement for which the law provides remedies including payment of money damages to the copyright owner.

Pertinent Lawsuits in Higher Education

Texaco Case
American Geophysical Union v. Texaco Inc. - 60 F.3d 913 (2d Cir. 1994)
In 1995, Texaco paid out over a million dollars to six publishers because a company researcher systematically made copies of scientific articles from a single use subscription without obtaining persmission from the publisher.  The fact that the research was for commercial gain, and that the court found that Texaco would probably not have purchased multiple copies of the journals, and the copies took the place of purchasing multiple copies (thereby competing with the publishers ability to collect license fees) all ruled against fair use.

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Kinkos Case
Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko's Graphics Corporation - 758 F.Supp. 1522 (S.D.N.Y. 1991)
Probably the most well known copyright infringement case around, Kinkos in all paid about 2 million to several publishers for making and selling "coursepacks."  Kinkos made the copies, assembled the packs and sold them, without seeking permission for the copyrighted materials.

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AIME et al. v. Regents of UCLA et al. - Case number 2:10-cv-09378-CBM-MAN Document 48 
The Association for Information Media (AIME), a NY-based trade group, and AVP, an educational video publisher and one of AIME's clients sued UCLA for streaming videos for student use.  The case has been thrown out.  Twice.  Notable in this case is that AIME and AVP are not the copyright holders.

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Georgia State Case
Campbridge University Press et al. v. Patton et al. - Case number 1:08-cv-01425-ODE
This case involves several publishers suing several individuals at Georgia State for using copyrighted materials in e-reserves.  Much has been written about the case as it has far reaching implications.  An original ruling found mostly in favor of Georgia State, but appeals have been filed and oral arguments on the appeal have begun.

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First Sale Doctrine
Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., No. 11-697 (U.S. Mar. 19, 2013)
This case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Supap Kirtsaeng, who was a graduate student at USC had his family buy hundreds of low cost Asian editions of Wiley textbooks.  He then had them shipped to the US and resold them.  Wiley sued and lost.  Wiley appealed and won.  It wound up at the Supreme Court where they ruled in favor of Kirtsaeng.  This case had huge implications on both sides, and the ripple effect if Kirtsaeng had lost would have effected Libraries especially harshly.

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Google Books
Author's Guild et. all v. Google Inc - 
Case 1:05-cv-08136-DC Document 1088
This case involves Google's project to digitize millions of books in University Libraries as well as commercially available.  The Author's Guild sued and the case was dismissed in New York district court.  The Author's Guild has already appealed.

More information:'Transformative,'-Judge-Rejects-Lawsuit?slreturn=20140121233457