Reversal in GSU Fair Use Proceedings

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in the Georgia State University e-reserves lawsuit (Cambridge UP v Patton) on October 17, 2014. The circuit court reversed the opinion of a lower court based on the latter's faulty application of fair use analysis, and remanded the case back to the district court for a revised analysis.

The Eleventh Circuit also vacated the award of legal fees to GSU. A concurring opinion from Judge Vinson strongly supported the publishers' argument that the principle of media neutrality was ignored by both the university and the courts. Both parties have filed motions with the appeals court, the university seeking minor amendments to the decision and the publishers seeking rehearing en banc.

AAUP is pleased that the Eleventh Circuit agreed with its concerns regarding the second fair-use factor: the nature of the work. The lower court, in concluding that most scholarly monographs are merely factual and therefore somehow less worthy of copyright protection, demonstrated a fundamental disregard for the immense intellectual creativity, originality, and expressive force shown in the works of humanists, social scientists, and all writers of thoughtful non-fiction.

As we stated on filing an amicus brief in February of 2013:

AAUP believes in fair use. We believe robust scholarship depends on the ability of scholars to quote others' published works for criticism and commentary, and to make transformative uses of others' work by adding new, copyrightable work of their own. Our members rely on this important copyright principle in deciding when to seek permission to include others' work in their own publications, and when they can justify that inclusion as a fair use. And we believe in the important role fair use plays in education generally, including enabling teachers to make appropriate use of books and other works in and out of the classroom. The question of appropriate parameters for fair use as publishing and education transition to digital is a complex and important one.



Peter Berkery
Executive Director, AAUP


Brenna McLaughlin
Director of Marketing & Communications, AAUP