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Teachers Win $3.2 Million Settlement in Suit Against Publishers

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In what appears to be a highly unusual legal case pitting author against book publisher, seven teachers who wrote a mathematics textbook have won $3.2 million in a settlement with some of the giants of the publishing industry.

The settlement, reached this month, involved a mix of publishing houses, including Macmillan, McGraw-Hill, and the former holdings of the late publisher Robert Maxwell.

The settlement, which is believed to be one of the largest ever won by authors, will come out of a trust fund established to pay off claims made against the former Maxwell companies.

Unpublished Text

The teachers' lawsuit stemmed from the Merrill Publishing Company's decision not to publish the third edition of Merrill Mathematics, which the teachers had written.

Merrill also refused to return publishing rights to the teachers and tried to hold them to a contractual clause that would keep them from selling their manuscript or writing elsewhere, according to the teachers' California-based lawyer, Michael R. Lennie.

Under the terms of the settlement, the publishers will release all rights to the teachers.

In their lawsuit, the teachers charged the publishers with breach of contract and conspiracy. They alleged that the book was withheld from the market to eliminate competition against another text, Mathematics in Action, published by Macmillan/McGraw-Hill School Publishing Company.

Out of Texas

The teachers had revised their mathematics text in anticipation of its submission to education officials in Texas in 1990, but the book was not submitted for consideration.

Texas is one of the most lucrative markets for textbooks in the country.

But if a book is not submitted to the state review committee that considers textbooks for inclusion on an approval list, its sales potential is almost nonexistent. School districts receive state funding only for books on the list. (See Education Week, 3/22/95.)

Officials at Macmillan and McGraw-Hill were unavailable for comment late last week.

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