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Law & Courts

Copyright Ruling Spurs Questions Over Photocopying

April 24, 1991 1 min read

A recent court ruling against the unauthorized photocopying of published materials for college anthologies could create confusion over what constitutes educational “fair use” of copyrighted works, an expert on the issue is warning.

“This kind of ruling can be another nail in the coffin for copying for educational purposes because it frightens the librarians and those who have custody of the copy machines,” said Michael Cardozo, a Washington lawyer who is a member of the Educators’ Ad Hoc Committee on Copyright Law.

“The librarians fear they will be sued,” Mr. Cardozo added.

In a case brought by eight publishers against the Kinko’s Graphics Corporation, Judge Constance Baker Motley of U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled March 28 that Kinko’s infringed on the publishers’ copyrights by publishing without permission professors’ anthologies of book excerpts for sale to college students.

Five anthologies compiled by professors at New York University, the New School for Social Research, and Columbia University were cited in the publishers’ lawsuit, which focused on Kinko’s, a chain of some 560 copy shops nationwide that has outlets near many colleges and universities.

Judge Motley rejected Kinko’s claim that the photocopying should be considered fair use for educational purposes under federal copyright law, ruling the chain had a profit-making motive to copying the anthologies. The judge ordered Kinko’s to stop producing the anthologies without permission and to pay the publishers $510,000 in damages, plus court and lawyer costs.

Kathlene Kars, assistant director of copyright for the Association of American Publishers, which coordinated the lawsuit, said the group did not perceive a major problem with unauthorized copying for anthologies at the elementary and secondary level.

Legal experts said it was unclear whether production of an anthology on a school campus for cost, thus eliminating the profit angle, would eliminate the need to obtain permission for each copied work.

“If the ultimate use of the copying is for nonprofit educational purposes, then it should be considered fair use,” Mr. Cardozo said.--mw

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A version of this article appeared in the April 24, 1991 edition of Education Week as Copyright Ruling Spurs Questions Over Photocopying

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