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Publishers and distributors of copyrighted content have struck out in their attack on libraries and fair use. First, in May, the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by several publishers against Georgia State University for its e-reserves practices was decided in favor of fair use (and the University). Then, in late September, the re-filed action against UCLA by AIME was dismissed, again, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim (a written order is forthcoming, which should state whether this time dismissal was with prejudice). Now, last week, the trial court in the suit filed against HathiTrust and several universities by the Authors Guild found in favor of the former in a copyright infringement action challenging their mass digitization project.
At issue in the Authors Guild’s lawsuit against HathiTrust and the universities was the creation, with the assistance of Google, of a shared digital repository of nearly 10 million works, the majority of which are still protected by copyright. The digital scans were used for three specific uses: (1) keyword searching of full text scans without display of the full text for purposes of identifying relevant works, (2) preservation of works in the event of deterioration or natural disaster, and (3) provision of access to works for persons with print-disabilities. The trial court refused to weigh the merits of the orphan works project, which was also challenged by the Author’s Guild, because that project was not yet fully functional and usable and thus not ripe for adjudication. Assessing and weighing the four factors of § 107 of the Copyright Act, the trial court found that the three uses qualified as fair uses of the copyrighted works:
Purpose and Character of the Use
The trial court found that the stated goals of the three uses of the digital scans — scholarship and research, preservation, and access by persons with disabilities — tilted significantly in favor of those uses. Further, the uses were transformative because the digital scans served an entirely different purpose than the original copyrighted works.
Nature of the Copyrighted Works
The trial court acknowledged that the majority of the works scanned were fiction or otherwise creative in nature (a distinction from the facts of the Georgia State University lawsuit) and that use of creative works was less likely to be fair use than use of factual works. However, the transformative uses of the digital scans weighed this factor in favor of HathiTrust.
Amount of the Works Copied
Although fair use typically favors using small and limited portions of copyrighted works, the use of the entire work is fair where necessary to carry out the stated purposes in this case — facilitation of keyword searching and access for individuals with a print-disability.
Impact on the Market for or the Value of the Works
Author’s Guild’s argument that economic harm would result from the defendants’ uses was based largely on speculation. No present collective licensing scheme existed for the large body of works that had been scanned nor was it likely that an economically viable scheme would exist in the near-future. Further, there was no evidence that the digital scans could easily be accessed by anyone, and thus result in avoiding purchase of a copy of the work, through circumvention of the security in place. Rather, the full-text works were only accessible by those print-disabled individuals with authorization and only snippets of the scans were available to those doing full-text searches.
While the fair use ruling is a critical one, another important holding in the trial court’s judgment is the determination that a university is an “authorized entity” under the Chafee Amendment (§ 121 of the Copyright Act). The Association of American Publishers has argued that universities and academic libraries are not “authorized entities” and thus cannot under § 121 provide full text copies of copyrighted works to persons with disabilities for their use. This ruling not only resolves this issue but also lends further credence to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, which states that academic libraries may provide materials to persons with print-disabilities under fair use.
With these three important rulings in favor of libraries and fair use, one hopes that publishers will take a step back and reevaluate their complaints and reassess the importance of partnering with libraries instead of working against them.
Four years since the filing, one year since the trial, and 350 pages of opinion later…we have an opinion in the closely watched copyright infringement action against Georgia State University. The case pitted prolific academic publishers Sage, Cambridge and Oxford against the GSU provost, Library Dean and others, with the publishers claiming that the policy and practice of GSU’s Library allowed faculty to post, in violation of the publishers’ copyrights, scans of book chapters in the University’s e-reserve and course management systems. In response, GSU contended that its actions fell within the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act, which the publishers contended that the postings, in the absence of permission or payment of license fees, far exceeded the bounds of fair use, which they argued were defined by outdated guidelines. In the end, the judge found largely in favor of GSU, and in doing so, she crafted a fair use framework (although for the time-being is only legally binding upon persons living in the Northern District of Georgia) that libraries and publishers alike will be analyzing and implementing in the months to come.
The Fair Use Framework of the GSU Case
Under §107 of the Copyright Act, a use of a copyrighted work without permission of the copyright holder is permissible when such use is for the purposes of teaching, research, commentary, news reporting, parody, or criticism, and the balance of four enumerated factors weighs in favor of a finding of fair use. Those four factors as set forth in the statute are: (1) the purpose and nature of the use, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work being used, (3) the quantity of the copyright work being used, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market. The application of these four factors to the posting of copyrighted works to electronic reserves systems has long been the subject of scholarly debate; however, this case is the first time that a court has undertaken to apply the fair use factors to such use. The judge’s application of the fair use factors in the context of e-reserves can be summarized as follows:
Purpose and Nature of Use – Because a college or university’s library is a non-profit and educational user, the court found that this factor weighed heavily in favor of a finding of fair use.
Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Because the works at issue in the case were all scholarly, non-fiction works (and many of them reference-type handbooks), the court found that this factor also weighed in favor of a finding fair use.
Quantity of the Copyrighted Work Being Used: Most of the excerpts posted in GSU’s course reserves were 10% or less of the book. The court held that this factor weighs in favor of fair use where no more than 10% of a work with less than 10 chapters or no more than one single chapter in works of more than 10 chapters is used. In amounts greater than this, this factor weighs in favor of the copyright holders. The court also reiterated that where the portion used represents the “heart of the work,” the balance tips in favor of the copyright holder.
Effect Upon the Potential Market for the Work – Where there is a reasonably priced and readily available license for a digital excerpt of the copyrighted work, this factor tips in favor of the copyright holder. This factor also weighs in favor of the copyright holder where the amount used is so great that it substitutes purchase of the entire work.
Answers, Yes, but Also More Questions
Through her careful reasoning and explanation, the judge in the GSU case answered many questions that have been pondered by copyright scholars and academic library practitioners. In particular, she held:
- The posting of copyrighted works in an electronic reserve or course management system is not analogous to the production of print course packs by a copy shop or other commercial entity. Thus, many points in the Kinkos case are not applicable to e-reserves.
- The posting of copyrighted materials in an e-reserve system is not a transformative use. In recent years, a finding of transformativeness has been key to deciding fair use cases.
- The 1976 Classroom Photocopying Guidelines are too restrictive and thus inconsistent with fair use. Further, the judge expressly rejected the “subsequent semester” rule that is an outgrowth of the Classroom Guidelines. Thus, use of the same excerpts for a course from one semester to the next does not mitigate against a finding of fair use.
- No or minimal use can mean no infringement. Where items posted to course reserves are never accessed by students, there is no infringement.
- When calculating the number of pages in a work (for purposes of determining what constitutes 10%), the entire work is counted, including the table of contents, foreword, and index pages.
However, the decision also left scholars and librarians with more questions to ponder:
- What about journal articles, images, videos, etc? The decision in GSU only dealt with monographs; however, many faculty utilize these other categories of works in their courses and request their institution’s library to post these materials in the course reserve system.
- What constitutes a “readily available and reasonably priced” license? And, if the copyright holder does not have a license or permission system available for the work or its excerpts, does this mean its fair use to use it anyway? In the wake of this decision, more publishers will likely either contract with Copyright Clearance Center or invest in devising their own license and permission systems. Does this mean libraries will end up paying more for less?
It will be interesting to see what answers folks on all sides off these issues will propose in the weeks to come and what the next moves of the publishers and their litigation funders will be in response to the judgment.
The idiom “no good deed goes unpunished” has never felt truer. Lately, it seems that libraries and universities have made more hash marks on their legal scorecard in the lose column than they have in the win column. In this past year, the Second Circuit undermined the first sale doctrine rights of libraries, a federal court held a trial in Georgia that could determine the bounds of fair use with respect to electronic course reserves, and several authors groups have now filed a lawsuit against Hathi Trust and others engaged in the preservation of orphan works. However, a small victory came in a California federal court this week in the case against UCLA for its video streaming practices.
Last December, the Association of Information Media Equipment (AIME) filed suit against several UCLA officials and employees, including members of library and media lab staff, for copyright infringement after UCLA digitized and streamed DVDs produced by Ambrose Video. AIME asserted it had standing to file this action as an association representing its members, which includes Ambrose Video. In granting the UCLA officials’ motion to dismiss, the court disagreed. Because AIME is not the holder of any of the copyrights at issue in the case, it lacked standing to bring the action. “Having the rights over a copyright is essential to establishing a copyright infringement claim” the court stated in its order; thus, participation of an individual member who was also owner of one of the copyrighted films at issue in the suit, was required. Additionally, the court determined that the UCLA Regents and other officials were immune, under the 11th Amendment, from suit in their official capacities (although not necessarily in their individual capacities, the court pointed out). These two grounds for dismissal could similarly prove fatal for the recently filed action against Hathi Trust and several state universities. It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of a couple individually named authors (and presumably copyright holders), who are also members of the named author associations, will save that action on the question of standing.
The remainder of the ruling on the motion to dismiss concerned more substantive issues; although by no means was there any legally determinative interpretation of fair use or other elements of copyright law. Hence, why the victory here is a small one. For me, the most curious point of this section of the ruling was the court’s characterization of the license to publicly perform the copyrighted work. The court held, although without much discussion or justification in the existing body of law, that the copying of the DVD onto the UCLA server for streaming was that kind of “incidental copying” permitted by fair use. That is, in order to make use of its license to publicly perform the film, UCLA had to place the content onto its network. Although I have not seen the full text of the license entered into between UCLA and Ambrose, I have, in my time as a collection development director, read, negotiated, and executed many a public performance and streaming license. In nearly all the ones I have encountered, the streaming of a film is treated as a separate license from the one to publicly perform a film. In fact, some public performance licenses (whether it be a separate document included with the DVD purchase or a click through on the online shopping cart when purchasing a DVD) expressly exclude streaming for remote access or distance learning. Further, if the viewing of the streamed copy is done by a student in the privacy of his own home or dorm room and not by a class in a group setting, is this really a “public” performance? As such, I would caution libraries and universities from relying too heavily upon this court’s interpretation of public performance and instead turn to the language of the institution’s own agreement.
For UCLA, the ruling is certainly a victory. AIME has until the 17th of October to refile the case, and I predict that unless they have an individual copyright holder to join in the matter as well as substantial evidence to make a case against the named defendants in their individual capacities such a refiling will not occur. For the rest of us who have been sitting patiently waiting for a ruling in this matter, the case is neither a victory nor a loss, for there still remains unanswered questions regarding the fair use of streamed media in distance education.
With classes back in session at most American universities and colleges, students may be looking for note taking or studying shortcuts to ease them through the semester. The sharing of course notes, lecture recordings, and exam copies has become more than a friendly gesture by former students; it has become a growing commercial enterprise by brick and mortar and online entities. A couple years ago the web site Course Hero began to attract scrutiny from teachers and administrators when it offered to students a monthly subscription to access its vast repository of uploaded course materials (or earn credits for access in exchange for uploading their own materials). Secondary to the concerns of academic integrity was the concern that the intellectual property rights of professors had been violated. Many educators are concerned that their original and creative work product, such as stylized lecture slides, detailed course handouts, and well-prepared syllabi, are being made available without their knowledge or permission. Course Hero, by its own admission, does not police content uploaded to its site. Rather it relies, much like You Tube, upon the vigilance of copyright holders to file with the company a take-down request pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. To help counter the problem, universities have adopted policies prohibiting students from sharing course materials or have devised informational sites for faculty to assist them in locating infringing downloads and requesting take-down.
To date, no litigation has arose as a result of Course Hero or sites like it. However, a copyright infringement action is pending in a Florida district court concerning the sharing of course information and may answer the question of whether sharing of course materials actually qualifies as fair use. The lawsuit was filed after the lecture outlines and film study questions prepared by a University of Florida professor were copied and packeted for resale by a local copy shop. The professor had transferred his copyrights in the materials to a publisher, who filed the infringement action. This past June, the district court ruled on the cross motions for summary judgment. Recognizing that the text materials were protected by copyright, the district court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the infringement claims on the ground that questions of fact for a jury existed as to whether the copying constituted fair use. The court wrote:
Works that are original, fictional, and unpublished enjoy more protection than works that are derivative, factual, and published. [The] works as a whole are derivative, factual, and published. Furthermore, his film study questions and practice questions are factual compilations. Copyright protection extends only to the selection and arrangement, not to the underlying facts themselves, and “[t]his inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin.” Feist. 499 U.S. at 349…Other factors in determining fair use include the purpose and character of the use, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use on the market or value of the copyrighted work. 17 U.S.C. § 107. The parties have presented various arguments for and against a finding of fair use. Genuine issues of material fact remain for a jury to determine regarding fair use.
The outcome of this case, much like the outcome in the Georgia State e-reserves lawsuit, has the potential to greatly impact our understanding and application of fair use. It will also impact the validity of sites like Course Hero and any other entity profiting from the sharing of course materials. (Note – the work for hire doctrine is not at issue in this case, even though a university as employer could claim copyright ownership in course materials because the university in the case had already disclaimed any interest in these materials.)
Three years in the making, the trial against Georgia State University (GSU) for their e-reserves practices begins tomorrow. The course for trial was set at the end of September when the federal judge presiding over the case ruled on the motions for summary judgment filed by the publishers and GSU officials, allowing the case to go forward solely on the claim of contributory infringement. (For a detailed explanation of those motions please read “Georgia (State University) on My Mind.”) However, in December 2010, the court granted the publishers’ motion for reconsideration and permitted them to proceed on the claim of direct infringement, now understood and correctly labeled as a claim of “indirect infringement.”
In the weeks and days leading up to trial, both sides filed the usual and customary motions concerning evidence and other pre-trial matters. But the most noteworthy, and somewhat nerve-wracking, pre-trial filing came from the publishers in the form of a proposed order to be signed by the judge in the event they win their case. The publishers do not seek monetary damages as the remedy for the alleged infringement; rather, they seek to enjoin GSU (and inevitably all academic libraries, college students, and faculty) from continuing to access copyrighted materials through secure digital means without permission and payment of royalties. The proposed injunction filed by the publishers would prohibit all persons affiliated with GSU, including faculty and students, from reproducing, transmitting, downloading, etc. copyrighted materials without permission or in excess of the Guidelines for Educational Fair Use that accompanied the 1976 adoption of the Copyright Act. Nowhere in the proposed injunction is there any mention of fair use as codified at §107 of the Copyright Act.
The publishers’ insistence of limiting GSU, including its students and faculty, to outdated and overly-strict guidelines is abhorrent. While I do appreciate the guidance and wisdom of the authors of the 1976 Guidelines and their exposition on the concepts of “brevity” and “spontaneity,” I do not believe that guidelines drafted at a time when only print existed and current digital modes of delivering educational materials were not even imagined should be levied against an institution as the absolute maximums allowed. To do so would completely obliterate the balancing test prescribed by the terms of § 107. As an academic librarian, I appreciate the ease and efficiency offered by adherence to numeric guidelines. However, librarians should strongly advocate against imposition of such strict maximums and lobby loudly for fair use.
Further, I do agree that certain versions of the “fair use checklist” often utilized by academics tend to liberally lean toward a finding of fair use; however, the checklist problem should not be solved through such a drastic measure as removal of fair use as a concept and consideration and adoption of very minimum page and word limits.
What the Kinko’s case did to the use of printed coursepacks, the outcome of the GSU case may very well do to e-reserve practices employed at most institutions of higher education. However, the outcome may not be the simple discontinuation of a certain practice or a slight modification of process; rather, fair use landscape may very well be blighted.
March Madness applies not only to the basketball court – but to the court of law as well, as we have seen this month. It has been nearly a month since I last wrote a post – and much has happened since then with respect to copyright law. I apologize for my tardiness in giving these significant events due attention. But my own month of March has been marked by “madness” – including three conference/workshop presentations and, more significantly, preparations for a move across country for a new job as scholarly communications librarian at the University of Florida.
So let’s review what has happened during this very busy March:
Righthaven Lawsuits: Fair Use – 1, Trolls – 0
Righthaven LLC, organized in 2010 upon acceptance of assignment of copyright ownership in the content of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other media outlets, has filed over 250 lawsuits against bloggers, web sites, journalists and others for copyright infringement. Prospective defendants are identified through a tactic referred to as “trolling,” whereby Righthaven allegedly searches the Internet for use of content and then seeks assignment of copyright and sues for infringement. Many of the lawsuits stem from the copying of a single image or the quoting of a sentence or two of copyrighted content. However, in one lawsuit, Righthaven claimed a non-profit immigrant rights organization committed infringement when it republished the full text of a Review-Journal article on immigration. That lawsuit came to a conclusion this month after a trial judge ruled that the use by the NPO was in fact a fair use. Upon reviewing the four factors of fair use, the judge determined that there was no effect upon the market (Factor Four). Righthaven did not assert any effect upon the Review-Journal’s ability to report the news; rather, the copyright was relied upon solely as a basis for the lawsuit. Further, there was essentially no overlap between the NPO’s audience and that of the newspaper. Finally, the use of the article was for informational purposes and fit squarely within the NPO’s educational mission (Factor One). For a complete history of the Righthaven lawsuits, visit
Full Court Press: Second Motion to Dismiss Filed in AIME v. UCLA
Following the filing of UCLA’s motion to dismiss in the copyright infringement action against it in January, plaintiff AIME amended its complaint. The amended complaint alleges additional facts in an attempt to support the initial and added claims against a now expanded list of defendants. A second motion to dismiss was filed by the UCLA defendants this month. In this motion, much like the first, UCLA renews its claim to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. UCLA challenges AIME’s contention in the amended complaint that immunity was waived by the University’s assent to the license agreement. And, as previously discussed here, the contract vs. copyright claims remain to be at issue in the amended complaint and follow-up motion to dismiss. This case continues to be one to watch.
Review by the Ref: Certiorari Granted in Golan v. Holder
In 1994, in an attempt to bring federal law into compliance with the Berne Convention, Congress enacted legislation, under authority of the “Copyright Clause,” extending copyright protection to thousands of foreign works that were still considered copyrighted in their countries of origin) but had long been considered part of the U.S. public domain. Many creative works, such as symphonies and films, that had been treated for decades as being in the public domain and as such had been performed, adapted, distributed and restored, were now protected by copyright. In an action brought by representatives of composers and film distributors, it was alleged that this retroactive extension of copyright protection to works previously treated as out-of-copyright was not only not within Congress’s power under the Copyright Clause but was also a violation of the petitioners’ First Amendment rights. The claims were rejected by the 10th Circuit, but this month, despite the government’s plea to refrain, the Supreme Court granted cert to hear the case. The outcome of this case has significant copyright implications because, as the petition for review argued, “if Congress is free to restore material from the public domain at will, then the public’s federal right to copy and to use public domain material this Court has recognized may evaporate at any time.”
Slam Dunk: Rejection of the Google Books Settlement Agreement
In the several days since, and surely in the days and weeks to come, librarians, attorneys, authors, and scholars will be debating the probable effects of the court’s sweeping rejection of the settlement agreement initially drafted in the Google Books litigation three years ago. Following months of wrangling and amending, the latest iteration of the agreement was rejected in totality last week by the federal court presiding over the case. In his opinion, Judge Denny Chin rejected the settlement agreement primarily on the ground that the major issues, namely the status of orphan works and the rights of foreign authors and publishers, were ones that were better resolved by Congress than a federal court. In particular, the orphan works problem is so amorphous that it cannot be adequately served by a settlement agreement between a possibly inadequate class of plaintiffs and a private entity. Moving forward, of concern to universities that had been participants in the Google Books mass digitization project is potential liability. While I do not foresee a rash of lawsuits or outrage for this noble effort to make works searchable and accessible by the public, it will be very interesting to see what develops in the weeks ahead.
Jump Ball: Trial Date Set in Georgia State University E-Reserves Case
In late September 2010, the judge in the copyright infringement action filed against GSU considered a motion for summary judgment filed by the University and the publishers who filed the action. In her ruling on that motion, she permitted the case to go forward on the issue of contributory infringement. Last week, the judge denied the University motion to dismiss the remaining claim, thereby setting the matter for trial, which is to commence May 16th. The hope is that this case will finally resolve some contentious issues regarding the bounds of fair use, particularly in this context of educational use of copyrighted materials online in electronic reserve or course management systems.
A little more than a month after being sued for copyright infringement, UCLA has responded with a motion to dismiss the action on the grounds the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment’s grant of immunity to UCLA’s Board of Regents and chancellor and for failing to state a claim against any named individual who was personally responsible for the alleged infringement. UCLA’s attorneys also claim that neither AIME nor Ambrose video have standing to sue and that certain of their state law claims are preempted.
Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence has a long and complex history. Generally, under the 11th Amendment, and in the absence of a State’s consent or waiver or Congressional abrogation, a State may not be sued in a federal court. For purposes of the 11th Amendment, the term “State” includes not just the State in name, but also its agencies and, in some narrowly defined instances, its officials. Here, UCLA contends that the State of California has not consented to suit and Congress has not acted to abrogate immunity in actions under the Copyright Act. As such, the Board of Regents and Chancellor enjoy 11th Amendment immunity as State actors in their official capacities. The unfortunate situation of States and their legal entities escaping liability for copyright infringement has been debated for years, most notably in 2000 when the Register of Copyrights requested Congress to seriously consider the implications of extending immunity to States in actions involving intellectual property. (See also GAO Report on State Immunity in Infringement Actions.) Because higher education has been the target in recent legislation concerning protection of intellectual property, I am not convinced that abrogation of immunity would be the best solution to this situation. The TEACH Act, the DMCA, and the HEOA, for example, impose stringent limitations on educational institutions aimed at preventing infringement by their employees and students. Failure to comply with the requirements of these acts pose sufficient burdens upon universities without opening them up to litigation. For further discussion on immunity and academic institutions, read this short piece from Information Today.
UCLA’s attorneys contend that AIME lacks constitutional standing to file suit because it is not the owner of any of the copyrights alleged to have been infringed. Further, AIME has not satisfied the requirements of demonstrating it could bring a lawsuit on behalf of its members, including Ambrose Video. The crux of UCLA’s argument rests upon a failure of the complaint to allege sufficient facts to support standing. I do think, however, that a properly drafted complaint could support AIME’s claim it has standing to represent its members. If this was the singular ground upon which dismissal was sought, I would hope the court would grant the right to amend the complaint. However, the immunity claim is meritorious enough that an amendment may not save the suit.
Finally, the motion for dismissal contends that the claims of AIME and Ambrose Video are preempted because they are grounded in state contract law. In the complaint, AIME and Ambrose state nearly identical claims under both the Copyright Act and state contract law. In the event the federal Copyright Act claims are dismissed on immunity or other grounds, UCLA argues, the state law claims cannot go forward because they are preempted by the Copyright Act. The contract giving rise to these claims is the license agreement entered into between Ambrose Video and UCLA when UCLA purchased DVDs from Ambrose. Under the terms of the license agreement, UCLA was prohibited from duplicating and broadcasting the content on the DVDs. UCLA contends, quote novelly, that this prohibition addresses conduct that is also addressed in the Copyright Act and as such is preempted. As Duke University’s Kevin Smith aptly notes, this argument has the potential of changing the way universities, and more notably their libraries, do business with providers of licensed content. If contracts that seek to control conduct that is otherwise covered by fair use or other provisions of the Copyright Act are preempted, the negotiation and effect of license agreements will radically change, perhaps for the better for libraries and their patrons.
The Association for Information and Media Equipment (AIME) made good on its threat earlier this year by filing a copyright infringement lawsuit this week against the University of California system and the chancellor of the UC Los Angeles campus (UCLA). The challenge levied both in January 2010 and in the Dec. 7th filing contends that UCLA infringed upon the copyrights of Ambrose Video, one of the institutional members of AIME, by copying (in violation of the DMCA), digitizing and streaming full length Ambrose Video DVD content via a password protected on-demand technology delivery system. Specifically, the complaint alleges that UCLA digitized a DVD series of BBC Shakespearean productions and streamed them more than 130 times to students and faculty.
Ambrose Video, like many film distribution companies including Films for the Humanities, New Day Films, and California Newsreel, provide by license, which is assented to upon purchase of their DVD products, that digitization and streaming of DVD content is prohibited and that a separate license must be purchased. Ambrose and these other film distribution companies offer, as part of their services, streaming video on-demand from their own servers or by license from an institution’s servers. AIME contends in its complaint that the actions of UCLA are not only a violation of license (hence, a breach of contract) but also, by digitizing and streaming its members’ DVDs, colleges and universities are unfairly preempting this emerging market and great harm will be sustained by the educational video business.
UCLA’s stance is that its actions fall within three exemptions of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. First, UCLA claims that the streaming of full length DVD content constitutes a public display under § 110(1). Second, the University claims that the TEACH Act exemption at § 110(2) applies. Finally, UCLA resorts, as a fallback position, to the fair use exemption at § 107. In its complaint, AIME addresses each of these assertions of exemption. AIME contends that the streaming of content is not a public display because the attendant requirement of “face to face” teaching is not present. Rather, students and faculty can access the streamed content on-demand, at any time and at any place, and not necessarily simultaneously. The TEACH Act exemption does not apply, according to AIME, because the Ambrose Video DVDs are separately marketed as available for “mediated instructional activities” through its on-demand streaming service. The TEACH Act expressly excludes from its exemptions those works explicitly produced and sold for distance learning. The TEACH Act also, albeit ambiguously, limits its exemption to “limited and reasonable” portions of fictional or dramatic works. In this case, entire DVDs were streamed. Finally, the result of a balancing of the four factors of fair use likely would not extend protection to the actions of UCLA, argues AIME, because of the aforementioned harm to the market and the streaming of entire DVDs.
The AIME suit against UCLA, unlike the copyright litigation instituted by journal publishers against Georgia State for its e-reserves practices, seeks monetary damages in addition to injunctive and other relief. My sincere hope is that the budget crisis faced by the UC system will not lead it to enter into a quick settlement of the dispute and thereby deny us the opportunity to have these pervading questions answered by a court of law. I also hope that the new Copyright Czarina, members of Congress, and the Library of Congress will note the important issues raised by this case and take steps to update the Copyright Act through amendment or design of further exemptions to address the opportunities technology offers educators and students so that pedagogical goals in the online classroom can be met same as in the physical classroom.
Last month, a federal district court judge ruled on the cross motions for summary judgment filed in the lawsuit against Georgia State University for copyright infringement. Unexpectedly, but thankfully, the ruling on those motions has opened the door to an actual trial being conducted. The hope of academic institutions and academic publishers alike is that some clarification will be offered as to the boundaries of fair use as pertains to electronic reserves.
To bring the unaware up to speed, a brief review of the litigation follows. In April 2008, three major academic publishers (Cambridge University Press, SAGE Publications, and Oxford University Press) filed suit against various officials, including the provost and library dean, of the Georgia State University system alleging copyright infringement. The complaint accused the University of engaging in “pervasive, flagrant and ongoing unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” via the course management system Blackboard™, departmental web pages, and hyperlinked online syllabi. The complaint alleged, specifically, that at the time of filing the University had stored on its servers 6700 works that had been used in over 600 courses and that these works had been repeatedly and systematically made available to faculty, students and staff for downloading, viewing, and printing without first obtaining copyright clearance from the copyright holders. The publishers do not seek monetary damages but rather seek to enjoin the University (and ostensibly other educational entities) from further engaging in this type of electronic reserves practice.
In the months that followed, the University dramatically revised its copyright policy. Both sides also filed motions for summary judgment, accompanied by lengthy briefs. Now, some thirty months after the suit was first filed, the trial judge ruled on those motions. The motions required the trial judge to review the three claims of liability presented in the compliant: (1) direct copyright infringement, (2) contributory copyright infringement, and (3) vicarious copyright infringement liability. The direct liability claim stemmed from the publishers’ contention that even if the individually named University officials did not personally commit infringement, the employees of the University acted in the scope of their employment when they posted materials online and that their infringing conduct could thus be imputed to the University (“doctrine of respondeat superior”). The trial judge dismissed this claim in favor of the University on the ground that the doctrine of respondeat superior could not legally support a claim of direct liability.
The vicarious liability claim arose from the publishers’ argument that the University committed infringement by facilitating and encouraging faculty, students and staff to view, download, print, and otherwise distribute materials that had been posted online in the e-reserves system in violation of the publishers’ copyrights. The trial judge again ruled in favor of the University on this issue. In order for the University to be vicariously liable, it had to be shown that the University profited financially from the infringing use of copyrighted works by its faculty, students, and staff. The publishers’ argument that the University’s purchase and promotion of a course management system and other current technologies, which have many non-infringing uses, attracted and retained students was insufficient to demonstrate that the University realized a financial profit through distribution of copyrighted works.
As to the claim of contributory infringement, the trial judge denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment, and this remaining issue will thus be resolved at trial. Because the University revised its copyright policy after suit was filed, the judge directed that the publishers must demonstrate at trial that infringement is likely to occur under the revised policy. Conduct under the prior policy is irrelevant because, under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the University is liable only for future, or continuous and ongoing, infringement. Further, and significantly, the judge noted that the policy as currently written does not induce or encourage infringement. As such, the publishers have the burden of showing that the policy is implemented in a way that facilitates and encourages ongoing and continuous infringement.
The good news for those in the academic community is the revised policy adopted by Georgia State University resembles those copyright policies adopted at numerous institutions across the country. Further, by placing this heavy burden upon the publishers, the trial judge has invited an examination of various scenarios played out in libraries and academic institutions every day. The hope is that this examination and review of the examples sure to be brought before the trial court will clarify and define the bounds of fair use in a way that benefits educational users of copyrighted materials.