In 2016, publisher DynaStudy alleged that the Houston Independent School District (HISD) was copying and circulating its materials, including notes, study guides, and activities, in ways that constituted copyright infringement.
According to the allegations, teachers and other employees of HISD, one of the ten largest school districts in the country, began in 2013 to routinely make copies of materials published by DynaStudy to share with their students. These materials were also posted on HISD’s learning management system and shared online.
Although DynaStudy had prominently displayed copyright warnings on each page of these materials, and despite concern expressed by some of its teachers, HISD’s administration authorized this activity and the practice continued. DynaStudy, a publishing house also located in Texas, learned of the practice and offered the district a settlement, which HISD rejected.
Over the following three years, HISD fought against the allegations, in part by asserting that its use of the DynaStudy materials was covered by the “fair use” doctrine. However, a federal court concluded that the doctrine did not apply in this case, with a jury finding that the district’s use of the materials did not constitute fair use.
After the ruling, HISD found itself facing a total liability of $9.2 million for its actions that were deemed to infringe on DynaStudy’s intellectual property rights, and reportedly resolved the matter with DynaStudy for $7.8 million.
Though the trial ended in 2019, valuable lessons learned from DynaStudy, Inc. v. Houston Independent School District still apply today, especially regarding the boundary where a fair use defense ends and the need to obtain proper copyright permissions begins.
To read about the history of the DynaStudy and HISD case, check out Plagiarism Today’s piece, “How a School District Wasted $7.8 Million.”
For more details on how the fair use doctrine did not apply to how HISD used and shared DynaStudy’s materials in this situation, you can read analysis of Dynastudy, Inc. v. Houston Independent School District from HLERK News.
A Solution Exists for Managing Copyright Compliance and Easily Obtaining Copyright Permission That Goes Beyond Fair Use
CCC (Copyright Clearance Center) offers a solution that districts such as HISD can leverage to obtain any needed copyright permissions falling outside of fair use.
The Annual Copyright License for Curriculum & Instruction from CCC makes it easy to incorporate excerpts and articles of copyrighted content from leading books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs into K-12 curriculum and instructional materials while managing copyright compliance. Learn more at: www.copyright.com/curriculum.
To see more of the latest content we’ve gathered relevant to both the K-12 and higher education spaces, including featured videos, case studies, and articles, please visit the CCC Academic Community Center.