Lawsuit on “Electronic Course Packs”

This story in The New York Times is alarming – does anyone know more about it? Though libraries, CMS’s, and e-reserves are not mentioned, it appears to have widespread implications.

Three prominent academic publishers are suing Georgia State University, contending that the school is violating copyright laws by providing course reading material to students in digital format without seeking permission from the publishers or paying licensing fees.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Atlanta, the publishers — Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publications — sued four university officials, asserting “systematic, widespread and unauthorized copying and distribution of a vast amount of copyrighted works” by Georgia State, which the university distributes through its Web site.

The lawsuit, which may be the first of its kind, raises questions about digital rights, which are confronting many media companies, but also about core issues like the future of the business model for academic publishers.

If anyone has the inside scoop, please share it with us.

Update: The AJC writes a really confusing headline but adds some information about the library angle; Inside Higher Ed writes journalistic circles around the Gray Lady. The complaint is here. The Chron comments on the commentary and links to a fascinating take from Kevin Smith that argues libraries and faculty aren’t free-riders on publishers, it’s the other way around: publishers get free content from academia, then wants to be paid all over again when it’s used for courses.

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

6 thoughts on “Lawsuit on “Electronic Course Packs”

  1. A bit more information: The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) has issued a press release in support of the suit, and posted a copy of the complaint.

    Both are available from aaupnet.org (look in the top left corner for links to these docs).

    And by the way, this is explicitly about e-reserves. The complaint mentions Blackboard/Web-CT, for example.

  2. Universities are paying through the nose many times over to use material that they themselves already own and whose employees may have created in the first place. Academic authors need to become much more savvy about the kinds of publishing agreements they sign. See “Marketing Ideas: Reshaping Academic Publishing in a Digital World” at http://www.scienceprogress.org/2008/04/marketing-ideas/

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