Battling Over Fair Use in the Classroom

Copying practices in the academic world were again thrown into legal disarray when a federal appellate court reversed a fair use finding in favor of Georgia State University (GSU) in its long-standing copyright dispute with several academic publishers.

The practice of selecting excerpted readings for use in classrooms has a long history. In the analog days, teachers would select readings for classroom use and arrange the creation of a “course pack”—a copied and printed collection of readings that would be compiled and distributed to students. When the Copyright Act of 1976 was being formulated, the U.S. House of Representatives developed a series of agreements known as the Classroom Guidelines. These guidelines established certain minimum “safe harbors” for copying for classroom use, including rules that specified the copying of sources such as a single chapter from a book, articles of 2,500 words or fewer, or book sections or chapters of up to 1,000 words or 10% of the work.

The guidelines did not have the force of law and were tested in two court decisions (Basic Books, Inc. v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp. and Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, Inc.) known as the course pack cases.

Read the rest of George Pike’s reporting at Appeals Court Reverses Georgia State Fair Use Decision.

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