The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed a friend of the court brief today in support of Georgia State University in the appeal of Cambridge U. Press et al. v. Mark P. Becker et al. In its brief, LCA argues that GSU’s e-reserves policy is consistent with widespread and well-established best practices for fair use at academic and research libraries, and that these uses have no negative effects on scholarship. LCA is represented by Jonathan Band and attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The case is on appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The case began in 2008 when Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publishers sued GSU for alleged copyright infringement. The publishers argued that GSU’s use of excerpts from copyright-protected materials in password-protected course e-reserves and class sites was a violation of the copyright law. Notably, the Association of American Publishers and the Copyright Clearance Center, the licensing arm for much of the academic publishing industry, organized and funded the lawsuit.
In May 2012, Judge Orinda Evans of the U.S. District Court in Atlanta ruled in favor of the university in a lengthy decision that reviewed each of 75 alleged infringements, finding only 5 infringing uses. In her ruling, the Judge saw little evidence of market harm to the publishers, and clearly understood that current teaching practices were beneficial to teachers and students, as well as being reasonable and fair. Because of GSU’s overwhelming victory, and the publishers’ aggressive litigation strategy, Judge Evans ordered the publishers to pay GSU’s attorneys’ fees and costs (nearly $3 million), an important ruling that could help discourage future aggressive lawsuits against good faith fair users.
Now that the issues are narrowed and clarified on appeal, LCA is one of several groups filing on the side of GSU in a striking show of solidarity across the academic community. The American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, and the American Association of University Professors, among others, are all represented in briefs defending the fair use rights of faculty, students, and librarians.