April 24 – May 1, 2008 Edition

Publishers Sue

Georgia University

For Copyright Violation

ATLANTA, GA/4/27/08–A group of publishers filed suit in federal court early last week to stop widespread copyright infringement at Georgia State University (GSU). The complaint, filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and SAGE Publications and supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), charges that GSU officials are violating the law by systematically enabling professors to provide students with digital copies of copyrighted course readings published by the plaintiffs and numerous other publishers without those publishers’ authorization. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to bring an end to such practices, but does not seek monetary damages.

The lawsuit asserts “pervasive, flagrant, and ongoing” unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials, despite attempts to reach an amicable and mutually acceptable solution without the need for litigation. GSU distributes the unauthorized materials through its electronic course reserves service, its Blackboard/WebCT Vista electronic course management system, and its departmental web pages and hyperlinked online syllabi available on websites and computer servers controlled by GSU. U.S. copyright law applies to digital course offerings as it does to paper offerings, and does not distinguish between different methods of distribution.

While many US colleges and universities work with university presses and other publishers to ensure their uses of published materials are in accordance with US copyright law, the lawsuit states that GSU has flatly rebuffed efforts to reach similar agreements.

“University presses are integral to the academic environment, providing scholarly publications that fit the needs of students and professors and serving as a launch pad from which academic ideas influence debate in the public sphere,” said Niko Pfund, Vice-President of Oxford University Press. “Without copyright protections, it would be impossible for us to meet these needs and provide this service.”

“Publishers must protect their interests and those of their authors when they believe that this spirit of cooperation­and the law itself­is being willfully and blatantly violated,” said Pfund. “We take this action in sorrow, not in anger, as we consider universities, librarians, scholars, and presses to exist in the same, mutually supportive ecosystem, and believe librarians especially to be among our most important publishing partners.”

“Of all places, we would expect universities to respect laws protecting intellectual property and to instill their students with such respect," said Frank Smith of Cambridge University Press. "One of the key values underpinning teaching and research in colleges and universities is the responsibility to credit academic work to its creator; and any attempt to take credit for work that is not your own is widely viewed as unacceptable. We think the majority of faculty would recognize that the same principles apply in respecting copyright law and the work of fellow authors and that these principles apply in the digital world, just as in the print world.”

“Respect for copyright law is integral to the higher education process,” said Patricia Schroeder, AAP President and CEO. “It provides the basis for publishing operations of university presses and scholarly societies, and makes possible the contributions of innumerable other authors and publishers to the educational process. Georgia State University’s disregard for basic copyright protections undermines this very premise.”

“AAP members and the publishing industry recognize the advantages of making course content available electronically for students, and offer licensing and permissions processes designed to allow such uses on a cost-effective basis,” continued Schroeder. “We are simply asking Georgia State University to take the necessary measures to respect the law.”

Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press, the publishing house of the University of Cambridge, is one of the world's largest academic publishers and is acclaimed for its list of journals, research monographs, and textbooks in subjects from medicine and law to literature and classics. The American branch of Cambridge, founded in 1949 and headquartered in New York, publishes 500 academic books annually and imports more than 700 additional titles."

Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press, Inc. (OUP, Inc.) is affiliated with Oxford University Press in the United Kingdom (OUP-UK), a department of Oxford University. OUP, Inc. is a nonprofit publisher and the largest university press in the US OUP, Inc.’s diverse publishing program includes scholarly works in all academic disciplines, Bibles, music, school and college textbooks, business and economic books, online scholarly resource sites, dictionaries and reference books, and academic journals. OUP, Inc. produces approximately 500 new titles a year, of which about half are scholarly research monographs, and imports close to 800 titles from OUP-UK and other branch offices around the world.


SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic,

educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, and Singapore.

Association of American Publishers

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the US book publishing industry. AAP’s more than 300 members include most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, postsecondary,and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software, and electronic products and services. The protection of intellectual property rights in all media is among the Association’s highest priorities.