Second Circuit Clears FedEx in Education Copyright Case

MANHATTAN (CN) – Tossing claims against FedEx for its reproduction of copyrighted educational material, the Second Circuit expanded the scope Wednesday of the term noncommercial.

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit called Great Minds brought the underlying challenge in Brooklyn over the unlicensed reproduction of its copyrighted curriculum called Eureka Math.

The crux of the case is that Great Minds actually licenses reproduction of its materials, but only for noncommercial purposes.

Notwithstanding the fact that FedEx made the reproductions at issue at the request of school districts, which were using the materials for noncommercial purposes under the license, Great Minds demanded that FedEx negotiate a royalty-bearing license with it as a for-profit business.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit affirmed dismissal of the case Wednesday.

“We hold that, in view of the absence of any clear license language to the contrary, licensees may use third‐party agents such as commercial reproduction services in furtherance of their own permitted noncommercial uses,” U.S. Circuit Judge Susan Carney wrote for the court in Manhattan.

“Because FedEx acted as the mere agent of licensee school districts when it reproduced Great Minds’ materials, and because there is no dispute that the school districts themselves sought to use Great Minds’ materials for permissible purposes, we conclude that FedEx’s activities did not breach the license or violate Great Minds’ copyright,” Carney added.

U.S. Judges Reena Raggi and Peter Hall joined the opinion.

Attorneys for neither of the parties returned telephone requests for comment by press time.

Creative Commons, a Silicon Valley group whose template gave rise to the Great Minds license at issue, also adopted the more expansive view in a friend-of-the-court brief to the lower court.

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