Textbook Publishers’ Copyright Litigation Strategy Implodes in Bankruptcy Court

Textbook publishers Pearson EducationCengage Learning and The McGraw-Hill Companies filed suit against an individual for copyright infringement when, without authorization, that individual sold the publishers’ college textbook solutions manuals on the Internet.  The publishers probably could have stopped the infringing activities by sending a cease and desist letter.  Instead, the publishers sought to make an example of the infringer by filing a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.  The publishers’ plan backfired when the litigation expenses overwhelmed the alleged infringer’s resources and he filed for bankruptcy in Minnesota, where he resides.

The bankruptcy court judge struck the publishers’ demand for a jury trial, awarded the publishers the minimum in statutory damages even after finding willful infringement of the publishers’ copyrights and denied the publishers’ motion for attorney’s fees.  The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals likewise affirmed the bankruptcy court’s decision.  On appeal to the Eighth Circuit, the publishers argued that they should have had a jury trial to determine damages and that they should have been awarded their attorney’s fees of more than $90,000.

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