Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, Inc.
99 F.3d 1381 (6th Cir. 1996)

  • Professors at U. Michigan would compile a bunch of articles that they wanted students to read in class, and give them to MDS. MDS would make copies of these articles, bund them up, and sell them to students for a profit.
  • A bunch of publishers, including Princeton, sued MDS for copyright infringement.
    • MDS argued that the copying of scholarly articles for academic purposes was protected by the fair use provision (17 U.S.C. 107).
    • The publishers argued that what MDS was doing was not fair use, because (unlike the professors) MDS was making a profit on the copies. In addition, there existed a mechanism called the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) where MDS could buy licenses to make copies.
      • The other copy stores in the area all bought licenses, so MDS was making an unfair profit by not doing likewise.
  • The Trial Court found for the publishers. MDS appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that based on 107 there is a four-factor test for determining if something counts as fair use:
      • Is the purpose and character of the use commercial or non-commercial?
        • The Court found that the articles are noncommercial in nature. However, MDS was using the articles for a commercial use. Nor had they don't any transformation of the original works.
      • The nature of the copyrighted work.
      • The amount of the original work used.
      • The effect on the potential market.
        • The Court found that the publishers were making about $500k a year via the CCC. If MDS's use were found to be non-infringing, then the publishers would lose that market.
    • MDS argued that most academic writers aren't paid for their work and publish in academic journals just to get the fame (and for the public good). However, the Court noted that it was the publishers who held the copyrights and it was the publishers' rights that were at issue, not the original authors.
  • In a dissent it was argued that the publishers could not possibly create a market for reprints. It was the professors that chose which articles to present to their classes. So there really isn't a legitimate secondary market for the articles that could be hurt by MDS's copying.