Summary of Texaco Decision

TO:          Duane E. Webster
Executive Director
Association of Research Libraries
Paul Peters
Coalition For Networked Information
FROM:        Ritchie T. Thomas, Esq.
Susan Neuberger Weller, Esq.
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey
DATE:        September 9, 1992
RE:          American Geophysical Union v. Texaco, Inc.
85 Civ. 3446 (PNL) (S.D.N.Y. July 24, 1992) 
[N.B.:  The following electronic version omits two footnotes
which exist in the printed version.]
This memorandum briefly describes and assesses the recent decision 
in American Geophysical Union v. Texaco, Inc., which, as described 
by publishers' counsel in widely circulated reports, has caused 
concern in the library community.  In the Texaco case, the U.S. 
District Court for the Southern District of New York found that 
the fair use provisions of Section 107 of the Copyright Act did 
not apply to Texaco's practice of making (or permitting the making 
of) unauthorized copies of articles from scientific and technical 
journals for scientists at its technical centers.  Although the 
decision has a number of troubling aspects, it is our general 
conclusion that it should not change what should be standard 
procedures at ARL and other non-profit libraries, for the 
following reasons:
1.     The case involved copying by a for-profit enterprise, and 
several elements of the Court's decision relied heavily on that 
2.     The case was decided under a stipulation that limited the 
Court's consideration to the fair use provisions of Section 107 of 
the Copyright Act.
3.     Although the Court also considered the application of the 
library photocopying provisions of Section 108 of the Copyright 
Act, its very brief discussion of those provisions so clearly 
misapprehends the statute that it is of no persuasive force and 
therefore of little concern.
The Texaco case was decided on a very specific set of facts that 
do not have general application to all instances in which 
materials are used for scholarship, research or teaching. The 
court phrased the issue before it narrowly as involving "whether 
it is lawful under the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. {J101, et 
seq., for a profit-seeking company to make unauthorized copies of 
copyrighted articles published in scientific and technical 
journals for use by the company's scientists employed in 
scientific research" (emphasis added).  Contrary to Plaintiffs' 
lawyers' representations, the Court did not hold generally that 
"the making of single copies of articles (including "Notes" and 
"Letters to the Editors") from the STM journals registered with 
the CCC is not fair use."  Its holding was much more narrow than 
In rendering its decision, the Court purported to apply the 
specific facts of the Texaco case to the four fair use factors 
delineated in Section 107.  It found in favor of the plaintiff 
publishers on three of the four and concluded that Texaco's 
practices were outside the protection of Section 107. 
Specifically, it held that the copying of individual articles 
(including Notes and Letters to the Editor) from scientific and 
technical journals by scientists employed by a profit-seeking 
company, to be used in pursuit of their company-sponsored research 
responsibilities, was not a fair use.  The Court based this 
holding on the grounds that (1) the use of the copyrighted works 
(i.e., Texaco's reproduction) was neither transformative nor non-
commercial, (2) the scientists copied the entire copyrighted work 
(e.g., the entire article, note or letter), and (3) the Court 
considered that Texaco's copying, rather than purchasing or 
licensing copies, of the copyrighted material caused substantial 
harm to the value of the publishing copyrights.  The Court found 
in Texaco's favor on the remaining "nature of the work" factor, 
because the works copied were factual rather than fictional.  Such 
works are generally more readily subject to a fair use defense.
In several respects, the Court's analysis is troubling. For 
example, its examination of the purpose and character of the use 
gives virtually no weight to the fact that the research purpose of 
the use is specifically listed as a fair use purpose by the 
statute.  The Court's analysis of the purpose and character of the 
use assumed that, where the use was "commercial," it could be a 
fair use only if it was "transformative."  Essentially, it took no 
account of the research purpose of the use, even as a factor in 
its analysis. In this, the Court seems to have disregarded the 
statute and relevant authority.  However, the Court did not go so 
far as to assert, as claimed by AAP's counsel, "that 'research' 
(and, by implication, 'teaching') activities (even if not for 
profit, but market impairing) are not entitled to special claims 
to free use of copyrighted materialJ.J.J.J."  The Court stated 
only that it did not believe the statute singled out the listed 
uses as presumptively fair.  Even if no legal presumption is 
raised, the Supreme Court has held that, if the purpose of the use 
is one listed in the statute, such as research or scholarship, it 
is a factor to be considered in the fair use calculus.  And the 
Texaco Court said (and implied) nothing whatsoever about 
noncommercial uses.
In addition, in considering the effect of the use upon the 
potential market for and value of the copyrighted works, the Court 
ignored the fact that the works concerned were transferred to the 
publisher without compensation; declared that the publisher's high 
profits are irrelevant; and concentrated almost exclusively on 
whether Texaco's unauthorized copying likely reduced the 
publisher's royalties from the Copyright Clearance Center.
The opinion of the Court was largely limited to an analysis of the 
facts under Section 107.  However, the Court did briefly address 
and reject Texaco's assertion that its activities should qualify 
under Section 108 as library photocopying.  Its rejection was 
based on two findings.  First, the Court stated that since Section 
108 was applicable only to reproductions made "without any purpose 
of direct or indirect commercial advantage", Texaco's clearly 
commercial purpose disqualified it from relying on Section 108.  
Second, the Court stated that, as the copying authorized by 
Section 108 is limited to the making of one copy, Texaco has no 
method in place to prevent more than one copy from being made of 
the articles in the journals, and "in all likelihood" Texaco's 
employees and its library made many more than one copy of the 
articles in question, Section 108 was, again, inapplicable.
The Court's analysis of Section 108 issues is totally wrong and 
reflects an astonishing ignorance of the statute and its 
legislative history.  Texaco's commercial purpose does not 
preclude it from enjoying Section 108 rights, if its collections 
are open to the public or specialized researchers as required by 
Section 108(a)(2).  The legislative history of Section 108 makes 
clear that:
Isolated, spontaneous making of single photocopies by a library in 
a for-profit organization, without any systematic effort to 
substitute photocopying for subscriptions or purchases, would be 
covered by section 108, even through the copies are furnished to 
the employees of the organization for use in their work.
H.R. Rep. 1476, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. (1976).  The Court also did 
not understand the "single copy" provisions of Section 108, which 
expressly state that the rights of reproduction and distribution 
under Section 108 "extend to the isolated and unrelated 
reproduction or distribution of a single copy or photorecord of 
the same material on separate occasions."  Thus, the mere making 
of multiple copies of the same copyrighted work is not a 
disqualifying factor under Section 108, if the copying occurs in 
isolated and unrelated transactions.  In addition, the Court 
inappropriately treated Texaco, Inc. as if it were the library 
"user" referred to in Section 108(d).
Ultimately, the Court questioned whether the issue of lawful 
copying under Section 108 was properly before it for decision, 
because the parties had limited the trial by stipulation to the 
issue of fair use under Section 107.  This may explain the Court's 
confused and error-laden discussion of the applicability of 
Section 108.
As previously noted, there also are several elements of the 
Court's Section 107 analysis that are highly disputable. This 
brief outline is not the place to discuss them.  We note, however, 
that we found unconvincing the Court's effort to denigrate the 
precedential value of the Williams & Wilkins case, in which the 
Court of Claims upheld as fair use the photocopying practices of 
the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of 
From the standpoint of ARL members and other non-profit libraries, 
the Texaco decision can have no conceivable effect on their 
interlibrary loan and other reproduction and distribution 
activities conducted under Section 108 and within the CONTU 
guidelines.  As long as they are complying with the statute's and 
guidelines' provisions, there is no reason to consider a change in 
established practices as a result of the Texaco decision.
However, if a library relies on Section 108 to protect "systematic 
reproduction or distribution" of photocopies of copyrighted works 
in excess of the CONTU guidelines, several aspects of the Texaco 
decision should be noted.  For example, the CONTU guidelines 
establish a safe harbor for "systematic reproduction or 
distribution" of articles from current journals in quantities 
conclusively presumed not to be "such aggregate quantities as to 
substitute for a subscription to or purchase of such work."  The 
guidelines do not specify what level of reproduction and 
distribution in excess of the guidelines would be affirmatively 
regarded as substituting for a subscription. The Texaco Court, 
with little apparent basis, concludes that arrangements like 
Texaco's do substitute for additional subscriptions.  While the 
Court's reasoning is unpersuasive, its conclusion warrants 
In addition, any library that relies on the general fair use 
concepts of Section 107, rather than the specific authority 
provided by Section 108, to protect it from liability for certain 
reproduction and distribution practices should be aware that, as 
the Texaco Court held, the copying of individual articles (and 
individually copyrighted Notes and Letters) constituted a copying 
of an entire copyrighted work, not copying of a portion of a 
copyrighted work.  This is not new law.
The original owner of a copyright is the author of the individual 
work, e.g., an article.  In the Texaco case, the authors of the 
articles copied assigned their copyrights in the individual 
articles to the journal publishers.  It is our understanding that 
this is standard practice in the field of technical and scholarly 
journals.  Upon assignment, the publishers then owned separate and 
individual copyrights in each article in each journal, in addition 
to owning a separate copyright in the journal as a compilation.  
Thus, by copying an individual article, Texaco copied an entire 
copyrighted work, not a portion of a copyrighted work.  Under 
factor three of Section 107, copying of an entire work will 
usually militate against a finding of fair use.  However, this one 
factor alone will not be dispositive of whether fair use exists.
The Texaco decision is of limited significance to non-profit 
educational libraries, even to the extent that they may rely on 
general fair use principals as authorization for certain 
activities.  The Texaco Court focused heavily on the ultimate 
commercial use to which the copied materials were to be put by 
Texaco.  Texaco's commercial orientation not only decided the 
issue in the publishers' favor with respect to the fairness factor 
that addresses the purpose and character of the use, it colored 
the Court's analysis of the other factors.  Even the Court's 
analysis of the effect of the use on the potential market for and 
value of the work was influenced (inappropriately) by the for-
profit nature of Texaco.  A non-profit or noncommercial use of 
copied material may not be sufficient, standing alone, to protect 
the copying of an entire copyrighted work under Section 107.  
Indeed, any institution relying on Section 107 should assure 
itself that, if challenged, it could prevail on additional Section 
107 fairness factors.  Nevertheless, a non-profit use represents 
an important distinguishing feature from the Texaco case.
Finally, the Texaco case represents a holding by a single district 
court judge, which has not been considered by an appellate court.  
As such, it is entitled to substantially less weight than Williams 
& Wilkins.  One of Texaco's attorneys recently was quoted as 
saying that Texaco would seek to appeal the decision.  Whether or 
not Texaco will be able to take an appeal at this stage of the 
proceedings is not clear, because the fair use issue was addressed 
by special stipulation of the parties and the Court has not yet 
addressed and disposed of other issues in the case.
Counsel for the publishers has opined that the Court's decision 
will give journal publishers substantially greater bargaining 
power in negotiations with journal subscribers regarding 
photocopying practices.  In fact, for the reasons discussed above, 
the decision is far less significant than publishers' 
representatives are inclined to claim.  This is particularly true 
with respect to its implications for non-profit, academic 
We hope this memorandum has been useful to you and your members.  
Please let us know if you have any additional questions or