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Issues that affect ministers and churches
Copyshop Violates Copyright Law
Copying and selling sections of textbooks constitutes copyright infringement.
Key point. Unauthorized duplication of copyrighted materials may violate the copyright law.

A federal appeals court ruled that a copyshop violated the copyright law by making "coursepacks" for sale to university students. The copyshop copied substantial sections of copyrighted texts, bound them into coursepacks, and sold them to students who needed them to fulfill reading assignments. A number of publishers of academic texts sued the copyshop for copyright infringement. The copyshop claimed that its copying amounted to permissible "fair use." A federal appeals court ruled that the copyshop had committed copyright infringement. The court noted that "fair use" is a defense to copyright infringement, but it insisted that this is a narrow exception that did not apply in this case. The copyright law does not define fair use, but it does list four "fair use factors" that may be applied in deciding whether or not the fair use defense is available. Those factors are: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and "substantiality" of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the unauthorized use upon the market or value of the copyrighted work. The court concluded that none of these factors supported a finding of fair use. The purpose and character of the unauthorized use was commercial exploitation. The nature of the copyrighted works was "creative" and "expressive." The amount of material copied from copyrighted texts ranged from 5 percent to 30 percent of the entire texts. Such percentages "are not insubstantial," the court concluded. Finally, the market for the copyrighted texts would be significantly affected if copyshops routinely made unauthorized copies of copyrighted texts. The court noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that "one need only show that if the challenged use should become widespread, it would adversely affect the potential market for the copyrighted work." It concluded that "if copyshops across the nation were to start doing what the [copyshop has] been doing here … the potential value of the copyrighted works of scholarship … would be diminished accordingly."

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Posted: May 1, 1997



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