Copyright: Back to Square One (Partially)

October 30, 2014 at 11:55 am | Posted in Advocacy and Gov't Relations | Leave a comment

In April 2008, Judge Orinda D. Evans ruled that Georgia State University had not violated fair use laws when it made scanned copies of books, journal articles, and other materials available in the university’s electronic course reserve system. The three academic publishers who brought the suit – Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications – appealed the decision and on October 17th they won, at least partially.  According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, the university’s use of this material for electronic course reserves did exceed the limits allowed by fair use. As a result, it was an infringement on the publisher’s copyrights.

The Court stopped short, however, of completely overturning the ruling of the lower court. Specifically, they did not rule that the trial judge’s decision was wrong, but that the process she used to reach that decision was flawed. They especially criticized her claim that all situations could be covered with one blanket rule on determining fair use and argued instead that each case had to be considered on an individual basis. The case will be sent back to the trial court for reconsideration.

The ruling was a disappointment to librarians and other fair use proponents because the original Georgia State ruling made it easier for them to make decisions regarding fair use and copyright. The publishers, although they technically won, were also somewhat disappointed because the appellate court did not decisively rule that Georgia State’s practices were illegal. For now, both sides will have to wait to see what the future brings.

Suggested Resources to Consult

[Submitted by Gary Atwood, Chair, NAHSL Govt. Relations Comm.]

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