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Publishers Sue Georgia State over Digital Distribution

A group of publishers has filed suit in federal court to stop what it calls "widespread copyright infringement" at Georgia State University (GSU). The complaint, filed by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and SAGE Publications and supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), charges that GSU administrators--including J. L. Albert, the school's associate provost for information systems and technology, and Charlene Hurt, dean of libraries--are violating the law by systematically enabling professors to provide students with digital copies of copyrighted course readings without publisher authorization. The lawsuit seeks to end the practices, but doesn't seek monetary damages.

According to the lawsuit (PDF here), GSU distributes the materials through its electronic course reserves service, its Blackboard/WebCT Vista electronic course management system and its departmental web pages and hyperlinked online syllabi available on websites and computer servers controlled by GSU.

"Publishers must protect their interests and those of their authors when they believe that this spirit of cooperation--and the law itself--is being willfully and blatantly violated," said Niko Pfund, VP of Oxford University Press. "We take this action in sorrow, not in anger, as we consider universities, librarians, scholars, and presses to exist in the same, mutually supportive ecosystem, and believe librarians especially to be among our most important publishing partners."

"AAP members and the publishing industry recognize the advantages of making course content available electronically for students, and offer licensing and permissions processes designed to allow such uses on a cost-effective basis," said Patricia Schroeder, AAP President and CEO. "We are simply asking Georgia State University to take the necessary measures to respect the law."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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