The New York Times broke the news yesterday that Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications are suing Georgia State for copyright infringement via distribution of digital coursepacks. Georgia State alleges that their use falls within “fair use,” but the publishers disagree, citing the utilization of multiple chapters. In addition, it appears that attempts at negotiations outside the legal system were rebuffed by officials at Georgia State.
Katie Hafner, the reporter for the Times, compares “holding onto rights [to] climbing up the slippery sides of a glass.” I disagree. The medium shouldn’t make a difference in the eyes of the law. If it did, then the law is only a ruse waiting for us to invent something to trick it out of our lives.
In the same article, Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive says, “I wonder if this will turn out to be an ‘attack the innovator’ suit like the peer-to-peer suits for the music industry.” Peer-to-peer networks were an innovation. Pirating copyrighted works on a university web site is hardly innovative.
Georgia State isn’t finding a friend in the Association of American University Presses (AAUP), which issued a statement reading, in part, that electronic distribution of books and journals “has become a significant problem for university presses, who depend upon the income due them to continue to publish the specialized scholarly books required to educate students and to advance university research.”
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) also supported the legal action in a statement.
Comments on the Chronicle of Higher Education story are worth reading to get a sense of the range of reactions from the community.