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Copyright Update from Peggy Hoon: The Copyright Infringement Suit Against Georgia State

In 2008 Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications sued four named individuals at Georgia State University (GSU) (the President, the Provost, the Dean of the Libraries and the Associate Provost for Information Technology) alleging massive copyright infringement occurring in the university’s electronic reserves and within the online course management system. Cambridge University Press, et. al v. Patton, Plaintiff publishers contended that their copyrighted materials were being used in amounts far in excess of fair use without permission and payment of permission fees.

This costly lawsuit has been proceeding since then. Trial began May 16, 2011 and is currently ongoing. It is a case well worth watching for it may directly affect university e-reserves as well as a great deal of content in all online courses.

As part of the pre-trial proceedings, the plaintiff publishers filed a remarkably onerous, costly, and universally damaging injunction¹, requesting the Court to order GSU “permanently restrained from creating, reproducing, transmitting, selling, or in any manner distributing, or assisting, participating in, soliciting, encouraging, or facilitating the creation, reproduction, download, display, sale or distribution in any manner of copies, whether in hard copy format, digital, or electronic computer files, or any other format, of any and all Works without permission.” (Emphasis added) This proposed injunction goes on to request the Court to, in essence, define fair use, as the brevity and cumulative effects amounts set forth in an old Guidelines for Photocopying from the 1970s. (Limiting prose to 1000 words, poetry to 250 words, etc.)² Additionally, pursuant to this injunction, GSU must:

     • Give a copy of this order and the old guidelines to all faculty and staff involved with any online teaching;
     • Emphasize the importance of following the guidelines and warning of disciplinary sanctions for any violation;
     • Ensure that the order and guidelines pop-up every time anyone (faculty, staff, etc.) attempts to upload any  
       copyrighted material to a GSU website (eReserves, uLearn, faculty web pages, etc.)
     • Promptly develop and institute educational programs about compliance with this order and designate
       someone to be available to answer questions about the order;
     • Change all existing policies and guidelines to comport with this order;
     • Require GSU’s President, within 45 days, to certify a report detailing measures taken to comply with this order;
     • Require GSU’s Provost to continue to certify a report of compliance based on diligent monitoring for 3 additional
     • Provide with the report a list of all materials on E-reserves during each semester, including the course 
       reserve page for each posted work and how many “hits” each work got during the semester
     • Provide access each semester to GSU’s computer systems, including online courses, to plaintiffs so they can
       ascertain compliance for themselves.

The Court has not ruled on this motion yet. However, the very existence of such an order has prompted significant negative response from the higher education community.³ Leaving aside the degradation of online course content and the questionable appropriateness of resurrecting controversial guidelines from nearly 40 years ago, the cost of implementing such monitoring is unacceptable.

For us at UNC Charlotte, the importance of addressing copyright considerations whenever including copyrighted materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses cannot be emphasized enough. Since copyright arises automatically and applies whether or not a work is published, registered, or has included a copyright symbol, all works should be considered copyrighted absent specific information to the contrary. There are many lawful ways to use copyrighted materials in our higher education setting and you are encouraged to visit our UNCC Copyright Essentials web site at and/or to contact UNCC’s Scholarly Communications Librarian at Atkins Library, Peggy Hoon, J.D., who can be reached at 687-5540 or

Additionally, copyright assistance and advice is always available from the UNCC Office of Legal Affairs, which is the only office on campus that gives legal advice.

[1]Accessed at
[2]Accessed at
[3]See The Georgia State University Lawsuit Injunction: Back To The Future ©ollectanea: Accessed at: