Georgia State and publishers continue legal battle over fair use of course materials

When three publishers sued Georgia State University for sharing excerpts of textbooks with students at no charge 10 years ago, librarians and faculty members took notice.

The lawsuit was a big deal for universities offering “e-reserves” to students — free downloadable course materials that often included scanned pages from print textbooks.

GSU (and many other higher ed institutions) believed that this use of publisher content was within the bounds of “fair use” — a much debated tenet of copyright law. Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Sage Publications disagreed. The publishers argued that this use of copyrighted materials without a license constituted infringement.

Then the courts went to work. In 2012, U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans sided largely against the publishers. The court ruled that 43 of 48 alleged cases of infringement were fair use — a judgment heralded as a victory for higher education institutions and libraries.

But in 2014, the U.S.

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