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Wanda M. Ramirez
A Textbook Case of Charity
1. Identify the ethical dilemmas.
The first and most obvious ethical dilemma in this case is the copyright infringement
of the Great American Literature textbook (written by Dr. C.R. Breach) made by three
professors from the Humongous State University (HSU). Copyright infringement is
illegal, and unethical because it refers to the reproduction, display, and distribution
of a product that does not belong to the individuals infringing it. Eastlane, Inc. had a
corporate policy to prohibit the resale of used textbooks and avoidance of the resale
of the book to online retailers.
The second dilemma: It is less obvious but still of great significance. How can the
accused professors be able to commit this tortious act in plain sight of university
management? What safeguards did the university had put in place to prevent or even
monitor this type of misconduct? Does HSU have any documentation to prove that
the professors in question attended an Ethical Training at the university?
Furthermore, can university management demonstrate that copyright infringement
was one of the topics covered on the training presentation?
Third dilemma: An implied yet dubious fact is that if these professors were trying to
aid impoverished students, why selling the book half-price? If their intentions were
legitimate, why were the professors obtaining a profit? Why not place the book online
Fourth dilemma: The suggestion of the establishment of a lawsuit against all the
students who have accessed the professors’ website may not be suitable in court.
How can the plaintiff demonstrate that those students accessing the website knew
that the professors were committing a copyright infringement? In anyone’s eyes,
these three professors could have been acting with the support of the Fair Use
Exception. Without previous knowledge, some individuals may see the selling of the
book half-priced as a generous gesture but may not see it as unethical.
Fifth dilemma: The textbook is heavily used by students that attended English
literature survey courses and was sold at $210 each copy. The book is only sold
through university stores and used textbooks cannot be resold or bought online. As
stated in the case, the publisher enforced these practices to sustain the price of the
textbook. In my opinion, the publisher has created a monopoly with the product and
I believe that is morally and ethically wrong to impose this hardship in individuals that
are still studying to obtain a degree.
2. Evaluate how stakeholders would be affected by various solutions to
your dilemma (s).
On the first dilemma: Property rights were granted by federal statute were violated.
It was clearly stated in the case that the publisher forbidden the reselling of used
books and avoided the online retail selling. In that regard, it can be assumed that the
textbook was not copyrightable. If sued, the three professors will be liable for
damages or perhaps may face criminal penalties. It may be considered as actual or
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Wanda M. Ramirez
statutory damages which are imposed at the court’s discretion (even criminal
proceedings for willful violations may be placed). The statutory damages are capped
at $150,000. The court may grant an immediate injunction against the infringers
(Business Law Today, 11th Edition, Ch. 6, Pg. 151). If a clause in the contract made with
Eastlane, Inc., included the forbiddance of reselling used textbooks or selling to online
retailers, not only the three professors will be in jeopardy of a lawsuit but also the
university may face criminal charges. The publisher may claim that HSU breached the
contract. The publisher, as well as the book writer may be affected with financial
repercussions from the fewer book sales. This may affect Eastlane, Inc. profits as well
as, Dr. C.R. Breach’s royalties. Nowadays, new technology allows individuals to save
documents on a device or online; therefore, augmenting possibilities of a third-party
reproduction of a textbook. A third-party piracy may be subject to another set of
individuals reproducing the textbook. These acts would be unethical for those
individuals that play a role in obtaining the textbook (either online or printed).
In the second dilemma: Since it would be nearly impossible to determine if faculty
staff is unethical or committing a tort without the help of a whistleblower, it is of great
importance to have systems in place to establish preventing measures. HSU must
prove that faculty staff received training on ethical behavior. The university may need
to provide sign-in sheets that evidence that the three professors attended an Ethical
Training. Moreover, HSU will need to provide a copy of PowerPoint presentation or
handouts that demonstrate that copyright infringement was one of the topics
discussed at the presentation.
In the third dilemma: If sued, the three professors may contend that there was not an
intend of copyright infringement. The professors may claim that reproduction of the
textbook was intended to assist students in financial need. However, by making a
profit, it placed the professors in a questionable situation. These professors may face
legal charges against them, and a remedy may be imprisonment or a fine.
In the fourth dilemma: This may be brought up as a Class-Action Lawsuit. As dictionary
defines it, a Class-Action Lawsuit occurs when a group of people is sued for an specific
tort. In this case, the students accessing the website and/or buying the online
textbook may have legal charges against them, and as a remedy they may face
imprisonment or a fine.
In the fifth dilemma: Social Media had become convenient and efficient because it is
viewed as the fastest way of communicating news. Due to the high-priced books, both
the Eastlane, Inc., and Dr. C.R. Breach may be victims of the proliferation of bad
3. Discuss the pros and cons of alternative courses of action.
First Dilemma: One of the cons is that if the publisher sues the professors, the defense
attorney can claim that the professors acted on the First Sale Doctrine of the Copyright
Act. As indicated in section 109(a) of the First Sale Doctrine of the Copyright Act, once
a copyright owner sells or gives away a particular copy of a work, the copyright owner
no longer has the right to control the distribution of that copy (Business Law Today,
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Wanda M. Ramirez
11th Edition, Ch. 6, Pg. 153). Unless a contract with university and Eastlane, Inc., clearly
states the banning of the reselling of the book and the online sale, it is possible that
the use of the First Sale Doctrine of the Copyright Act may use as a defend for the
Second dilemma: One of the cons is that if the university do not have any proof of
trainings on ethical behavior, the court may infer that poor management practices
may have allowed these professors to make this copyright infringement. On the other
hand, having proof of ethical trainings may give the university some relieve of criminal
Third dilemma: One of the cons is that the professors may be accused of malicious
intent or willful violation to obtain illegal earnings. In other words, more than “a
textbook of charity” may be misconstrued as “a textbook of profit.”
Fourth dilemma: One of the pros is that it may be difficult to proof that students knew
that the three professors were committing a copyright infringement. The students
may claim that they believed this access was totally permitted by the publisher;
therefore, malicious intend in the students’ part would be difficult to proof.
Fifth dilemma: Students may access their social media applications and tell the world
about their side of their story. They may portray themselves as victims and describing
everyone else, including the publisher and author of the textbook, as villains. In this
era, many firms and individual’s live have been destroyed due to the creation of bad
reputation. In a blink of an eye, Word-to-Mouth information can do much damage
and if the word is out that the publisher customarily imposes high prices on textbooks,
the aftermath can be devasting.
4. Recommend a decision. Rationale for the decision.
To avoid disputes over ethical violations, the university should first create a written
ethical code that is expressed in clear and understanding language. The code should
include established and specific procedures that employees can follow if they have
questions or complaints. A well-written code might also include examples to clarify
what the company considers to be acceptable and unacceptable conduct copy
(Business Law Today, 11th Edition, Ch. 9, Pg. 230). Also, university management
should provide trainings on ethical behavior not only to faculty staff but also to their
pupils. At the end of the trainings, both faculty staff and pupils should sign a Code of
Ethics Contract. This contract should specify all the actions that a university staff and
a student may find as unethical.
I recommend that Eastlane, Inc., follows through with the advice of their general
counsel and gives the approval for a lawsuit against the three professors who
committed this copyright infringement. I believe that Eastlane, Inc., has standing to
sue and given the circumstances, it may win. In my opinion these professors,
committed an intentional tort and acted out of malicious intent to obtain illegal
profits. More than being enraged for the high prices of the textbooks, I believe these
professors saw that situation as an opportunity to make a buck. A precedence needs
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Wanda M. Ramirez
to be established that when someone uses piracy (specially to obtain profits) will need
to receive the consequences. What kind of example were these professors setting?
To me, it is embarrassing. I would have expected this type of behavior from high
school students but never from these type of professionals. The court should have an
injunction on the infringement. Requesting that the website be shutdown
immediately. These professors should go to court and a fine should be given for this
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