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Copyright Information and Policies

A place to go for information on copyright laws and guidelines

Georgia State Case and E-Reserves

There is an ongoing case directly relating to the issue of online course reserves - Cambridge University Press et al. v. Becker et al. Three publishers sued individuals employed at Georgia State University for copyright infringement with the use of their e-reserves system, with 48 different infringements claimed. The latest decision was delivered in March 2020, with the district court in Georgia finding that all but eleven of the claims were fair use. This case has been appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court twice already, and both times, the Court remanded the case back to the district court for a reapplication of the fair use standard. The number of infringement claims successful changed from six in the first ruling to five in the second. This new ruling allows for more claims to be successful, but still rules that a majority of the infringements claimed were actually fair use. It is difficult to know what the further applications from this case may be, as it is ongoing and there may yet be another appeal, but there are a few takeaways (summarized from Chapter 14 of Kenneth Crews's Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators, 4th Ed.): 

  1. Reasonable people disagree on the application of fair use. That is because fair use is intentionally open-ended and designed to be applicable to future situations the authors of the 1976 Copyright Act could not foresee. A one-size-fits-all approach is unrealistic and more likely to go against the law than an analysis for each article or book chapter being considered.
  2. Georgia State’s policy was to perform an independent fair use analysis for each article or book chapter posted, using a checklist similar to the one we provide here at Wartburg. District court judges have largely agreed with their assessment, so this checklist is a valid good-faith effort to follow the law in determining fair use.
  3. Eleventh Circuit opinions have placed far more weight on the market effect factor of fair use than any other, so it is best to research whether posting content on My Wartburg would directly prevent a sale before doing so.

Vogel Library, Wartburg College   |   100 Wartburg Blvd, Waverly, IA, 50677 |   Phone: 319-352-8500   | Email: asklibrarian@wartburg.edu