Georgia State University at Center of Copyright Fair Use Dispute


Georgia State University is at the center of a major national copyright fair use dispute.  The case involved claims by three academic publishers, Oxford University Press, Cambridge, and SAGE Publishers, against Georgia State.  The publishers alleged that Georgia State had violated numerous copyrights by using text book content in electronic reserves on university course websites.


In May 2014, Judge Orinda Evans of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled mostly in favor of the university, tossing all but five of the almost 100 copyright violation claims pending against the university.  The District Court found that GSU’s general practice of copying excerpts from books into online classroom resources constituted academic fair use under the Copyright Act of 1976.


Then in late October, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the District Court’s ruling, finding that the trial court erred when it applied the Fair Use Doctrine “mechanistically” to the GSU facts but stopped short of finding copyright infringement against the university and sending the case back to the District Court for further proceedings with the instructions from the Circuit Court.  The massive 130-page ruling from the appeals court has caused great concern in the publishing world..  Now the publishers are asking the entire Eleventh Circuit to rehear the case en banc, arguing that the recent GSU opinion has diverged from the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of the Fair Use Doctrine in prior cases.


The practical applications of this case are far-reaching, and current ambiguity in the law leaves thousands of academic users hanging in limbo.  However, there are  practical steps academic institutions and copyright holders alike can take to protect their interests, even with the current ambiguity in fair use.  An experienced attorney with specific knowledge of copyright laws can be your company’s best asset.


If you are a copyright holder and have questions about this case or what it means for claims of copyright infringement against others, you need an experienced Georgia business litigator who understands the ins and outs of copyright law on your side.  Attorney James J. (“Jim”) Thomas II has more than 35 years of courtroom experience in the Atlanta area, and has represented professional athletes, individuals and businesses of all sizes. Jim is a business litigation expert who can handle complex business litigation as well as analysis, evaluation, and resolution of existing and potential litigation.  Give Jim a call at 404-869-5248 or visit online.

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