Here’s some more news about the Georgia State University lawsuit over copyright infringement in digital academic course packets. The judge has issued her ruling (PDF) on the remedy she would order concerning the 5 counts out of the 99 infringements submitted that she found were not fair use under the law. This ruling clarifies some confusion over the previous ruling, as both sides were making hay out of claiming they had “won”.
Well, now the judge has clarified the winner: it was Georgia State University. Over the course of the ruling, she clarifies a few points about the nature of the fair use that were fuzzy, having to do with the amount, type, and permissions of the access. And though she does not have to, she orders the plaintiffs to pay the legal costs of the defendant because some of the plaintiffs’ bad behavior over the course of the suit “significantly increased the cost of defending the suit.”
The judge also saw no need to slap GSU with the kind of complicated digital permissions record keeping system the plaintiffs wanted. It would only serve to increase costs, while in fact through the way they managed their program GSU was already trying to comply with copyright law anyway.
It seems pretty clear that the forces of fair use have won this round. Though the battle is far from over, as the case still has to pass muster on appeal. That could drag on a while, and possibly lead to unexpected consequences. In the mean time, universities can rest secure in the knowledge that they can get by with using a small portion of a given copyrighted work with impunity in their course packets.