Cambridge University Press v. Becker

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Cambridge University Press v. Becker
Richard B. Russell Federal Building and Courthouse, Atlanta (Fulton County, Georgia).jpg
United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
Full case name Cambridge University Press et al. v. Becker et al.
Judge sitting Orinda Dale Evans
E-reserves, fair use

Cambridge University Press et al. v. Becker et al. (orig. captioned Patton), 1:2008cv01425, is an ongoing case in the Northern District of Georgia in which three publishers, Cambridge University Press, SAGE Publications, and Oxford University Press, are suing Georgia State University for copyright infringement.[1]

The plaintiffs claimed that Georgia State University engaged in "systematic, widespread and unauthorized copying and distribution of a vast amount of copyrighted works" through its e-reserves system.[2] Georgia State asserted that its system did not infringe copyright because its uses were fair use.[3]

The district court issued a 350-page findings of fact and conclusions of law on May 11, 2012, finding that in almost all cases the alleged infringements were fair use.[4] In a subsequent decision the court deemed that Georgia State University was the "prevailing party" and ordered the plaintiffs to pay GSU's attorney's fees.[5] Notwithstanding the "prevailing party" decision, the plaintiffs characterized the case as "flawed" but not a "loss",[6] but nonetheless filed an appeal.[7]

The costs of the litigation were funded in large part by the Copyright Clearance Center, a licensing company which funded 50% of the litigation and announced plans to continue to do so on appeal,[6] and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).


Cambridge University Press, SAGE Publications, and Oxford University Press filed the lawsuit on April 15, 2008.[2] They named four Georgia State officials as the defendants.[2] The plaintiffs alleged that Georgia State made over 6,700 works available through its e-reserves system and website.[3][8] They also alleged that the university "invit[ed] students to download, view, and print such materials without permission of the copyright holder."[3] The plaintiffs alleged direct, vicarious, and contributory infringement.[9] They filed for summary judgment on all three claims, and Georgia State submitted counter-motions for summary judgment.[9]

On February 17, 2009, the Georgia Board of Regents changed the challenged e-reserve system, making it more similar to peer institutions.[10] Following this change, on June 22, 2009, the university was granted a court order that limited discovery to the university's ongoing conduct.[10]

On October 1, 2010, Judge Orinda Evans granted summary judgment in favor of Georgia State on the claims of direct and vicarious infringement.[9] She granted summary judgment on direct infringement because there was not enough evidence to show that any of the four named defendants engaged in acts of infringement.[9] She also granted summary judgment on vicarious infringement because there was no evidence the named defendants profited from the alleged infringement of librarians working under them.[9] The plaintiffs then submitted a partial motion for reconsideration. The judge granted it, allowing the vicarious infringement claim to go forward under a theory of indirect liability.[11]

Money damages were not at issue in the case.[9] Under the doctrine of state sovereign immunity, the plaintiffs could only seek injunctive relief against Georgia State.[10]

Reaction to the initial lawsuit[edit]

Both librarians and publishers are watching this case for its implications for broader conflicts about fair use and copyright infringement in the education community.[8] As universities replace traditional printed resources with electronic course resources (either in the form of e-reserves or electronic course packs), publishers have sought to limit unlicensed uses in these forms.[2] Similar cases have been filed against universities, including UCLA,[12] and in other countries, York University,[13] Delhi University,[14] and New Zealand.[15] In Seattle, a lawsuit was filed against a commercial copyshop serving Seattle University.[16] The District Court distinguished the university, a nonprofit educational institution directly serving its users, from the commercial copyshops found to have infringed copyright in two cases in the early 1990s.[2]

Academic librarians and their lawyers have described the case as a "nightmare scenario."[17][18] Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, has suggested that the plaintiffs have lost sight of their missions, which include furthering education and scholarship.[17] Similarly, Paul Courant, University Librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, has argued that the plaintiffs in this suit are in danger of becoming enemies, rather than simply adversaries, of libraries and authors.[19] Kevin Smith, the director of scholarly communications at Duke University, has said that a broad holding in the plaintiffs' favor would have "catastrophic consequences," either limiting the information that students can read or greatly increasing the cost of higher education.[20] Both Fister and Smith also suggest that a narrow interpretation of fair use could lead more professors and academic authors to embrace the open access movement.

Publishers and their representatives also feel that the stakes are very high. Tom Allen, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, has written that Georgia State's policy "invited disregard for basic copyright norms" and would threaten copyright's incentives for producing original work.[21] Allen emphasized that educational purpose is not enough for a finding of fair use—other factors also enter the analysis.[21] He also wrote that Georgia State's practices, if universalized, could bring down the entire "creative ecosystem."[21] Sandy Thatcher, then the executive editor for social sciences and humanities at Penn State University Press, commented in 2010 that the loss of revenue from the unlicensed electronic use of copyrighted material limited the University Press's ability to publish new books.[22]


The trial began on May 17, 2011[12] and ended on June 8, 2011.[11] After hearing the plaintiffs' arguments, Judge Evans granted the defendants' motion for a directed verdict on the claim of contributory infringement.[11] The defendants' arguments largely related to fair use.[3] The parties filed their final post-trial briefs later that summer.[1]

The district court issued a 350-page findings of fact and conclusions of law on May 11, 2012.[4] The case is currently under appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.[23]

The Court found that most uses considered were fair use, considering the purpose of the use (nonprofit educational), the nature of the works (scholarly and factual), the amount taken (often less than 10%), and the effect on the market (little or known especially where there was no license available for electronic excerpts). Of the other allegations, the Court dismissed some as de minimis (because no students had in fact used the reserve copies), and dismissed others because the plaintiffs could not show that they actually owned the copyrights. Specific factual fightings included the Court determining that the relevant length of the work was the entire work, not individual chapters or portions of works, and a finding "that no book sales were lost."[24] Based on the overwhelming number that were found to be noninfringing, the Court held Georgia State to be the "prevailing party", and awarded attorney's fees to Georgia State.[5]


The plaintiffs appealed to the 11th Circuit, which heard oral arguments in the fall of 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Last Round of Filings Made in Georgia State U. Fair-Use Lawsuit", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 4, 2011 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hafner, Katie (April 16, 2008), "Publishers Sue Georgia State on Digital Reading Matter", New York Times 
  3. ^ a b c d Albanese, Andrew (March 15, 2010), "Both Sides Angle for Victory in E-reserve Case", Publishers Weekly 
  4. ^ a b Cambridge University Press v. Patton, No. 08-01425 (D.Ga. May 11, 2012).
  5. ^ a b Steve Kolowich, 'The Prevailing Party', Inside Higher Ed (Aug. 13, 2012).
  6. ^ a b Andrew Albanese, "Publishers Appeal 'Flawed' Decision in GSU E-Reserves Case", Publishers Weekly, Sept. 11, 2012.
  7. ^ See Publishers Brief in appeal, filed 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Publishers Say They Are Not the Enemy in University Copyright Disputes", The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 19, 2011 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Hadro, Josh (October 7, 2010), "Georgia State Ereserves Case Narrowed Yet Again", Library Journal 
  10. ^ a b c Albanese, Andrew (July 13, 2009), "Settlement Likely in E-Reserves Case?", Publishers Weekly 
  11. ^ a b c Albanese, Andrew (June 9, 2011), "Arguments in GSU E-Reserves Trial Conclude; Judge Deals Publishers a Quick Loss on One Count", Publishers Weekly 
  12. ^ a b Perry, Marc; Howard, Jennifer (May 29, 2011), "2 Universities Under the Legal Gun", The Chronicle of Higher Education 
  13. ^ Michael Geist, "Access Copyright's Desperate Declaration of War Against Fair Dealing", April 9, 2013.
  14. ^ "HC impleads students in copyright case", The Asian Age, March 14, 2013.
  15. ^ Jody O'Callaghan, "Universities refuse to pay extra copyright licence fees",, Aug. 3, 2013.
  16. ^ Copy Mart sued for copyright infringement 
  17. ^ a b Fister, Barbara (May 19, 2011), "The GSU Lawsuit: You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are", Library Journal 
  18. ^ Smith, Kevin (May 13, 2011), "A nightmare scenario for higher education", Copyright in the Classroom, Copyright Issues and Legislation, Fair Use, Libraries 
  19. ^ Courant, Paul N. (June 20, 2011), "Adversary or Enemy?: A Publisher Lawsuit Crosses the Line", Publishers Weekly 
  20. ^ "What’s at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case", The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 30, 2011 
  21. ^ a b c Allen, Tom (July 11, 2011), "Common Goals: AAP on the GSU e-reserve lawsuit", Publishers Weekly 
  22. ^ Albanese, Andrew (June 14, 2010), "A Failure to Communicate", Publishers Weekly 
  23. ^ Albanese, Andrew (September 11, 2012). "Publishers Appeal 'Flawed' Decision in GSU E-Reserves Case". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  24. ^ "Plaintiffs offered no trial testimony or evidence showing that they lost any book sales in or after 2009 on account of any actions by anyone at Georgia State. The Court finds that no book sales were lost." Cambridge University Press v. Becker, at 217.

External links[edit]

  • Trial - Opinion, 863 F.Supp.2d 1190 (N.D. Ga. May 11, 2012)
    • The case's docket
    • The original complaint
    • The answer to the original complaint.
    • The amended complaint
    • The answer to the amended complaint.
    • Order granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on claims of direct infringement and vicarious infringement.
    • Order granting plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration; the Court affirmed its grant of summary judgment to defendants on direct infringement claims, but denied defendants summary judgment on vicarious infringement claims.
    • Order denying defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice.