Saturday, October 24, 2020

Dear Professor: “You’ve Been Sued”

If you’re currently teaching and making course-packets and readers without consent of the authors, you better read this! Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press Inc. and Sage Publications Inc. have sued Georgia State University. The publishers brought suit to stop Georgia State professors from copying what they call a “legitimate 20%” from books and making them available for their students, free, via online course packets.

According to, the publishers are not seeking monetary or punitive damages. Instead, the publishers “want Judge Orinda D. Evans to issue a declaratory judgment saying that GSU’s copying violates the law. They’re also seeking an injunction preventing further unauthorized use of copyrighted material.”

“At the heart of this suit is what may well be a novel issue in copyright law: How much of a book or monograph that exists in paper form may be digitized by a nonprofit educational institution without running afoul of the fair use doctrine, which allows limited copying, without authorization, for educational and other purposes.”

UPDATE I: A keen reader points us to this important point which helps clarify a few things: “Such immunity does not extend to suits for prospective injunctive relief, however… Thus, plaintiffs may sue University employees in their official capacities for injunctive relief (i.e.- have a court force defendant to do or stop doing something). They are only barred by the 11th Amendment from bringing suits for money damages against the state or its employees in their official capacities, unless Congress has validly abrogated immunity pursuant to the 14th Amendment or the state has unambiguously waived its immunity.” More on this here.

Update II: Related to Update I, A California District Court has just “invalidated the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act as unconstitutional,” which in essence removes their immunity protection. Thus, the court ruled “that a State, employee of a State (acting within his or her official capacity) or instrumentality of a State cannot be held liable for copyright infringement.” Basically, we’re back to square one. More on this here.



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