Transfer Pricing Associates

The fair use of copyrights in the digital age?!

post Wednesday May 16, 2012

Georgia State University


A federal judge in Altlanta made a landmark decision regarding copyright law in the digital age, by ruling in favor of officials at Georgia State University on nearly all the copyright infringement claims made by three textbook publishers.

The issue being disputed was about whether GSU officials had violated copyright law by allowing its professors to provide students with free electronic access to selected portions of certain textbooks. The publishers had initially issued hundreds of copyright infringement claims when the case began in 2008, but eventually only 74 claims went through.

Of the 74 claims, 69 were rejected by U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans on May 11. For the vast majority of claims, Judge Evans concluded that the “fair use” doctrine protected the GSU professor’s decision to allow the students to access an excerpt online through Georgia State’s Electronic Reserves System.

Ms. Quicker, co- lead counsel for GSU, said the court’s 350-page ruling offers important guidance for universities on how to design their policies on electronic access. “This ruling will be studied by universities from coast to coast because it’s the first in-depth analysis of how copyright laws will apply in the digital age in the context of higher education,” said Ms. Quicker, who was assisted at the trial by Ballard Spahr associate Richard W. Miller.

Judge Evans found that even though university officials tried to comply with the Copyright act when adopting their current policy, it still led to five instances of copyright violations. “The truth is that fair use principles are notoriously difficult to apply,” Judge Evans wrote. In each of the violations, Judge Evans found the publisher lost money because a professor had provided free electronic access to selected chapters in textbooks although the publisher had made it possible to sell licenses for those books on a per-chapter basis.

However, for 20 of the 23 professors whose use of the Electronic Reserves was put on trial, Judge Evans concluded that they made “fair use” of the publishers’ works as GSU only offered free access to a small percentage of the book, for purely educational purposes and without the aim of making a profit.

[Source: IP-Today]


image image courtesy of Georgia State University

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