Recently the 11th Circuit addressed on appeal the question of whether fair use insulates from copyright liability a University which offers to its students a digital repository of reading material culled from third party publications without the benefit of a license.   Three academic publishers filed suit against Georgia State University claiming that the University infringed their copyrights by maintaining a policy which allows GSU professors to make digital copies of excerpts of their books available to students without paying them a royalty.  Prior copyright cases known as the “course pack cases” – cases in which commercial copy shops were found to have infringed copyrights by printing course packs containing excerpts from third party publications without permission from the publishers – seemed to dictate a finding of infringement.  However, of the 74 instances of infringement alleged, the lower court found that the Plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of infringement for 26 works and that fair use applied to all but 5 instances.

The fair use of a copyrighted work is not an infringement of copyright.   The four factors a court must consider in determining whether fair use applies are: (1) the purpose of the allegedly infringing use, (2) the nature of the original work, (3) the size and significance of the portion of the original work that was copied, and (4) the effect of the allegedly infringing use on the potential market for or value of the original.
Continue Reading Cambridge v. Becker – A Copyright Win For Publishers or an Enlargement of Fair Use?