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Law School Case Brief

Princeton Univ. Press v. Mich. Document Servs. - 99 F.3d 1381 (6th Cir. 1996)


The fair use doctrine under the Copyright Act does not obviate the need to obtain permission to reproduce works; generally speaking, the larger the volume (or the greater the importance) of what is taken, the greater the affront to the interests of the copyright owner, and the less likely that a taking will qualify as a "fair use."


The corporate defendant, Michigan Document Services, Inc., is a commercial copyshop that reproduced substantial segments of copyrighted works of scholarship, bound the copies into "coursepacks," and sold the coursepacks to students for use in fulfilling reading assignments given by professors at the University of Michigan. The copyshop acted without permission from the copyright holders. Consequently, Princeton University Press, Macmillan, Inc., and St. Martin’s Press, Inc., collectively, the plaintiffs, brought a copyright infringement claim against defendant for unfair use under 17 U.S.C.S. § 107. Finding that the fair use doctrine did not obviate the need to obtain permission to reproduce the works and that the infringement was willful, the trial court granted appellees summary judgment.


Did the Michigan Document Services, Inc.’s act of reproducing copyrighted works of scholarship without obtaining permission from the copyright holders for students’ use constitute fair use under 17 U.S.C.S. § 107?




The Court held that the Michigan Document Services, Inc.’s use of the works was a commercial use, in that it sought to profit from its sales to the students. According to the Court, because Michigan Document Services, Inc. did not pay license fees to the copyright holders, its use was an unfair exploitation of the monopoly privilege that belonged to the owners of the copyright.

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