HOUSTON SCHOOL DISTRICT REQUIRED TO PAY $9 MILLION AFTER LOSING COPYRIGHT LAWSUIT OVER LEARNING MATERIALS
On May 24, 2019, after a seven-day trial, a Texas federal jury ordered the Houston Independent School District (“District”) to pay $9.2 million to an educational publishing company, DynaStudy, Inc. (“DynaStudy”), after finding its employees willfully infringed the company’s rights. The verdict comes just approximately three years to the date since the lawsuit was filed on May 23, 2016.
The jury found the District’s teachers infringed 36 different DynaStudy copyrights by
duplicating and distributing a vast amount of materials including: review guides for algebra, biology, chemistry and English. The District was also found to have violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by creating and distributing copies of 17 student course notes.
After the verdict, the District stated, “Houston Independent School District (“HISD”) has added an annual online training on copyright laws required for all employees at the beginning of each school year and also provides in-person training to HISD’s principals…HISD will certainly be adding additional training and safeguards concerning the reproduction of copyrighted materials going forward.”
Texas-based DynaStudy’s 2016 complaint alleged that DynaStudy had repeatedly asked District to crack down on the infringement to no avail. DynaStudy’s amended complaint filed in late 2017 sought a permanent injunction and damages from the district. District then tried unsuccessfully to get the suit dismissed in 2016, and also sought partial summary judgment in its favor in 2018 by arguing that copying some of those copyrighted works qualified as “fair use,” a defense that is often used in connection with educational materials. District also claimed several more of Dynastudy’s copyrights were invalid as DynaStudy knowingly included inaccurate information in its copyright applications; but that motion was denied in October, 2018.
The jury awarded statutory damages ranging from the minimum of $750 up to $150,000 for each copyright infringed.
DynaStudy is represented by Gary R. Sorden and Tim Craddock of Cole Schotz PC, and Mandi Phillips and Darin M. Klemchuk of Klemchuk LLP.
Houston Independent School District is represented by Jonathan R. Spivey, LaTasha M. Snipes, Cheyenne J. Pate and Stacianne M. Wilson of Bracewell LLP.
The case is DynaStudy Inc. v. Houston Independent School District, case number 4:16-cv-01442, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
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