Georgia State Strikes Back

If the university presses that sued Georgia State over the use of electronic readings offered their students through the campus CMS, department pages, and library e-reserves were looking for a “whoops” and the kind of statement that Cornell (and other schools) have adopted – they guessed wrong.

At issue: well, it depends on how you frame it. University presses think Georgia State violated their rights by not “seeking permission” (copyright lingo for “paying”) to use digital copies of their publications. They want the university to adopt practices that are at least closer to their more limited definition of fair use. Georgia State believes they were furthering students’ education in a way that is fair use. And in papers filed on Tuesday they’ve just explained their side of it to the court.

Andrea Foster’s article in the Chron (the only coverage of this development that I’ve seen so far) points out that Georgia State is making another argument – as a state institution they’re immune from prosecution.

Without having a copy of the filing, it’s hard to read the tea leaves – but this could be precedent-setting in ways the previous settlements were not. How interesting that this document was filed just before ALA is having its annual meeting in Annaheim and at the very same time the American Association of University Presses is meeting in Toronto. I’d love to have two flies on those conference center walls with Twitter accounts.

(The AAUP has a statement of support for the press’s suit posted on their website, but it’s from last April. I tried to see if they have updates on their blog, but guess what – it’s closed to non-members. I also couldn’t find a statement from Georgia State’s press office at their Website.)

Do you know more about this court filing? Do tell.

Author: 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.

4 thoughts on “Georgia State Strikes Back”

  1. Fabulous – thanks Laura (and I shoulda thought of that….)

    Thinking about this case, it really boils down to publishers – university press publishers at that – believing that e-reserves and/or use of CMS systems for course readings are a widespread and systematic violation of their copyrights. Libraries disagree. Faculty just want to be able to teach, and a big part of teaching is assigning stuff to read.

    I know this is nothing new, but previous settlements ended up with basically lukewarm variations, sometimes more restrictive, on the ACRL / ARL statement on e-reserves. This is a head-on confrontation.

    Libraries are not in favor of widespread copyright violation. We believe we are adapting long-held practices to a new environment and are doing so responsibly. Publishers worry the idea of the “coursepack” – an ugly compilation of photocopies with a high price because of permission costs – are growing more unpopular. Yeah, they are. They are a crap business model.

    Okay, so the solution is to sue us into submission, make it very difficult for faculty and students to read scholarship in courses because pay-per-view gets expensive, and all of our money will go for paying permissions instead of for buying new scholarship that might someday be taught in a course.

    Rube Goldberg couldn’t design a better system for digging a grave than that.

  2. Is there anybody out there who can clarify the issue about GA State’s claim of immunity from prosecution? I thought that state entities could not be required to *pay damages*, but they could still be found to be infringing. If their fair use claim fails, they could still have to stop posting e-content in the ways these publishers object to.

    Have I got that right? It may seem like a technicality, but if I’m right, it would mean that while the publishers may not get $$ damages, but they may get what they want in terms of future behavior.

    If GA State’s claim is larger — that the whole suit can be thrown out on immunity grounds — that we could have a conclusion that doesn’t address the larger issue, which I agree is a head-on confrontation.

  3. I don’t know the answer to that – and iirc the suit was not just against the institution but against several individuals. I got a bit of a headache reading the whole thing, especially the bits that weren’t over fair use.

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