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College E-Readings Should Be Paid For, Guild Argues in Brief

Amicus Brief_Georgia State University_Authors Guild

On December 9, the Authors Guild filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a group of academic publishers in the Georgia State University (GSU) copyright infringement case. The publishers sued GSU in 2008 for encouraging its faculty to provide students with free, unlicensed digital course packets containing excerpts (often full chapters) of copyrighted books. Earlier case law required that photocopying excerpts of books for course packs was not fair use. The GSU case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit for the second time. The lower court in 2012 had held that most of Georgia State’s excerpt uses were fair, mainly because they were educational uses and the court failed to find any market harm. On appeal, the 11th Circuit remanded the case back down to the district court, which again found that most of the uses were fair. That decision is now on appeal.

Among other things, the brief made the case that a lower court, in deciding that many of those unlicensed uses were fair, failed to assess the harm these e-packets caused to the market for licensed and paid-for course packets. The brief focused on the harm to authors, namely lost licensing income. This is an extremely important case for the future of higher educational licensing income.

Encapsulating the harm that the lower court’s decision could have, Authors Guild Council member T.J. Stiles, in a statement included in the brief, wrote that the public could get “the very limited bounty of being able to read my existing work for free—which it can already do at any public or academic library—but it will get no further works from me.”

Read the full brief below.

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