A group of academic publishers sued two Massachusetts companies on Tuesday, charging that the copy shops they own have produced coursepacks for professors at Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst without gaining adequate copyright permission from the owners of the material.
The publishers, 10 in all, filed separate lawsuits in federal courts in Boston and western Massachusetts.
Nine of the publishers -- the American Psychological Association, Elsevier, Houghton Mifflin Company, John Wiley & Sons, Pearson Education, Princeton University Press, SAGE Publications, Thomson Learning, the University of Chicago Press -- sued Julesan, Inc., charging that its Gnomon Copy shop in Boston, "routinely duplicated and distributed copyrighted materials in the form of print coursepacks (compilations of excerpted materials) used at Northeastern University without obtaining copyright permission from the publishers directly or through Copyright Clearance Center."
Six publishers -- the APA, Elsevier, John Wiley, Princeton, and SAGE, as well as Harvard Business School Publishing -- sued in Springfield, Mass., charging that Shafiis' Inc., which operates the Copycat Print Shop in Northampton, Mass., had gained only "partial permissions" for coursepacks it had produced for use at UMass.
Coursepacks have been an increasingly popular way for instructors to craft their own set of course materials, rather than having to depend on a single large textbook. Many faculty members turn to copy shops to pull the materials together. To do so, the shops must gain permission from (and typically pay royalties to) publishers or authors to distribute the materials -- work often handled by the Copyright Clearance Center, a nonprofit company that handles permissions for more than 1,000 colleges.
The publishers who sued Tuesday described the actions as one of the largest efforts by the industry to protect copyrights. “These lawsuits are a significant action not only for the publishers involved but for the publishing industry as a whole,” Roy Kaufman, legal director at John Wiley & Sons, said in a prepared statement.
“They demonstrate that competing publishers can combine forces and form a united front against infringement. We also are showing solidarity with the many copy shops that do respect the intellectual property of publishers and authors. We will do our utmost to preserve a level playing field for them.”
An employee who answered the telephone at Gnomon Copy in Boston said she had been instructed not to talk about the lawsuit.
Ray Shafie, manager of the Copycat Print Shop in Amherst, said he had not been informed about the filing of the lawsuit. After he was faxed a copy of the news release from the publishers' group, he did not respond to requests for comment.