Thursday, April 24, 2008

Publishers Sue Georgia State on Digital Reading Matter

I haven't caught up with the full details of this one yet: Publishers Sue Georgia State on Digital Reading Matter

" Three prominent academic publishers are suing Georgia State University, contending that the school is violating copyright laws by providing course reading material to students in digital format without seeking permission from the publishers or paying licensing fees.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Atlanta, the publishers — Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publications — sued four university officials, asserting “systematic, widespread and unauthorized copying and distribution of a vast amount of copyrighted works” by Georgia State, which the university distributes through its Web site."

But it looks as though Georgia State University takes a liberal rather than a risk averting view of fair use. The publishers are seeking an injunction but not damages and it will be really interesting to watch.

Jim Gibson's Risk Aversion and Rights Accretion in Intellectual Property Law is recommended background reading. Abstract:
"Intellectual property’s road to hell is paved with good intentions. Because liability is difficult to predict and the consequences of infringement are dire, risk-averse intellectual property users often seek a license when none is needed. Yet because the existence (vel non) of licensing markets plays a key role in determining the breadth of rights, these seemingly sensible licensing decisions eventually feed back into doctrine, as the licensing itself becomes proof that the entitlement covers the use. Over time, then, public privilege recedes and rights expand, moving intellectual property’s ubiquitous gray areas into what used to be virgin territory—where risk aversion again creates licensing markets, which causes further accretion of entitlements, which in turn pushes the gray areas even farther afield, and so on. This “doctrinal feedback” is not a result of changes in the positive law but is instead rooted in longstanding, widely accepted doctrine and prudent behavior on the part of everyone involved. And because feedback is so ingrained in established law and practice, its various cures tend to create more problems than they solve. In the end, however, subtle changes in doctrine’s use of licensing information provide a normatively neutral solution."
Also Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right: Producer-Based Limits on Rights Accretion in Trademark by Rebecca Tushnet and The ‘Why’ of Markets: Fair Use and Circularity by Wendy Gordon, also in the Yale Law Journal.

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