Legal Issues & Language Media

Court cases involving educational arguments for using media without permission or payment of royalties





Kirtaseng case:

John Wiley & Co vs. Kirtsaeng is a case in which the question is whether copyright owners (in this case, Wiley) can restrict distribution in the U.S. of copyrighted materials produced outside the U.S., and if so, on what grounds. In this case, an Asian student was financing his U.S. university attendance by reselling cheaply printed versions of Wiley textbooks meant for the Asian market. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of Wiley, ruling that because the books were produced outside the U.S. they could not be resold without Wiley's permission. On Oct. 29, 2012, the case was brought in the Supreme Court, and the decision was announced on March 19, 2013. The court held that where the books were made did not affect Kirtsaeng's right to resell them in the U.S. Earlier decisions (esp. the Lanza case) had said that products made in America and sold to buyers abroad can be re-imported, so Kirtsaeng's business was completely legitimized.

HathiTrust decision:

Author's Guild et al. vs. HathiTrust et al. In this case HathiTrust is joined by University of Michigan, Cornell and Indiana Universities, and the Universities of California and Wisconsin. The decision was filed October 10, 2012 in the Southern District of New York. Judge Harold Baer determined that the HathiTrust's use of a vast database of scanned print materials (mostly created under the GoogleBooks project), including materials still in copyright, was fair use. HathiTrust makes it possible to search this database and retrieve references to a desired search term, facilitating research of all kinds. The scanned texts are also made available to the blind, for whom this may be the only option to read them.

Google Books settlement:

Author's Guild et al. vs. Google, Inc. United States District Court, Southern District of New York, March 3, 2011, refused to approve the settlement. Google Books attempted to digitize just about everything that has ever been printed, and then settle with all the authors of copyrighted materials afterwards (arrange for permissions and royalty payments), thus obtaining exclusive digital rights to sell digital copies of some works as well as a gigantic database to search for subjects, authors, etc. A judge threw out the settlement, which did not include all the authors but rather a group representing the authors, with a fund in reserve for authors who step forward to claim rights in copyrighted books. The settlement attempts to address the problem of orphan works, i.e. works whose author is difficult or impossible to contact.


Georgia State University E-Reserve case:

Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publications vs. Patton et al., filed 4/15/2008. Judge Orinda D. Evans published a decision on May 11, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. This is the first lawsuit that has been brought over electronic course reserves. The plaintiffs were supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Copyright Clearance Center. This update of the Kinko's case marks the change from the need for a private business selling paper coursepacks to the option of digitized e-reserves provided by the educational institutions themselves. Judge Evans's decision affects the interpretation of Fair Use in educational settings in a number of ways. For example, she made clear that whereas in the Kinko's case a commercial entity made money from the copying of educational materials, it weighs strongly in the favor of University institutions that they are offering the materials to students without charge. She also defined the amount of a book that can be considered "distinctly small" as an educational excerpt. In August 2012, the publishers responded with a proposed injunction against the use of their materials, which Judge Evans dismissed, assigning the court costs to the plaintiffs.


UCLA case:

Association for Information Media and Equipment (AIME) vs. Regents of the University of California et al., originally filed 12/7/2010. UCLA began streaming video, including full-length documentaries, educational TV series episodes, and theatrical films, without asking compensation or offering royalties to the rights holders, in a password-protected secure website accessible only by those for whom the video was assigned course work. Early in 2010 AIME, representing Ambrose Video, told UCLA to cease and desist. UCLA did so, but then determined that the use was defensible.

On October 3, 2011, The case was dismissed in the district court "without prejudice." Judge Consuelo Marshall determined that AIME did not have status to sue, and that UCLA and some of its personnel were protected from the suit.

AIME renewed the suit with very few amendments, and it was dismissed a second time (with prejudice, meaning it cannot be renewed) on November 20, 2012. This time, Judge Marshall evaluated UCLA's arguments and found that it was at least reasonable for the educators to suppose that they were withing the law. .

Zediva case:

MPAA vs. Zediva, California, 2011. Zediva offers online film rental (of newly-released DVDs not yet available to Netflix or other streaming services) on an unusual model: instead of renting a streamed version of a digitized film, one rents a DVD in a DVD player in the Zediva building. The content is streamed, but to one computer only during the rental period; users can control the player (e.g. to turn subtitles on or off, which is of interest to language instruction). The Motion Picture Association of America has sued for infringement of copyright.


The Kinko's Case:

Basic Books vs. Kinko's Graphics. Decided in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, 1991 in favor of Basic Books. Kinko's and many other copying companies were creating course packets from books, articles, etc. specified by faculty members, without permission and without paying royalties. Large portions of books might be copied (e.g. books that were out of print or simply far too expensive for students to purchase). Students purchased the course packets directly from the graphics company. After the decision, clearinghouses were formed to manage reprinting rights and the graphics companies began to request permission and, if necessary, collect and remand royalties on reprinted texts. This decision was reinforced in 1996 by Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, Inc., decided against the copy shop by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.


The Betamax case:

Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. In 1984 the Supreme Court ruled that time-shifting broadcast TV programming by taping it using a VCR for later home viewing did not infringe on the copyrights of the programs taped. Later in the same year, a congressional subcommittee developed what are known as the Kastenmeier Guidelines for educational use of programming taped off-air, and these restrictions are still considered appropriate. The question of how this case applies to current TV programming (Cable, premium channels) is not clear, but the replacement of VHS recording by electronic recording has to some extent limited the ease of using recorded programming in the classroom.