September 24, 2021

Textbook Case: Pearson Education is Suing Chegg For Copyright Infringement

The lawsuit, Pearson Education, Inc. V. Chegg, Inc. (2:21-cv-16866), was filed today in New Jersey District Court.

From the Complaint:

As part of Pearson’s focus on pedagogy, Pearson and its authors devote significant creative effort to develop effective, imaginative, and engaging questions to include in the textbooks it publishes. Pearson’s end-of-chapter questions are strategically designed and carefully calibrated to reinforce key concepts taught in the textbooks, test students’ comprehension of these issues, enhance students’ problem-solving skills, and, ultimately, improve students’ understanding of the subject matter. Pearson’s textbooks can contain hundreds or thousands of end-of-chapter questions. These end-of-chapter questions form core components of the teaching materials contained in Pearson textbooks and are frequently hallmarks of Pearson titles.

Pearson owns and/or controls the exclusive rights to the copyrights of its textbooks, including the hundreds or thousands of original end-of-chapter questions typically contained within each textbook, and Pearson has the exclusive right to control the preparation. As such, the availability, quality, and utility of these questions are often important considerations when educators select which textbooks to adopt for their courses. and distribution of answer sets to the questions in Pearson’s textbooks. The sale of a work that is based on, and copies from, the creative efforts of Pearson and its authors violates Pearson’s exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.

Chegg is a company that sells textbook answers. The majority of Chegg’s $644 million in total revenue in 2020 came from its sales of answers through a service called “Chegg Study,” which costs $14.95 a month, with subscribers surging by 67% to 6.6 million in 2020. Chegg hires thousands of freelancers to prepare answers to textbook questions. Chegg then systematically publishes these answer sets on the Chegg Study website, where they are organized by the titles of the corresponding textbooks—using precisely the same unit, chapter, and topic orders and naming conventions for the questions employed in the textbooks—so that students can easily search for and find answers to the textbook questions they have been assigned. Today, Chegg boasts of having “millions of homework answers” to end-of-chapter questions from 9,000 textbooks, a significant number of which are published by Pearson.

Textbook questions are intended to be part of the learning progression. Educators assign selected textbook questions as homework and as study aids to help in the education process. Chegg’s infringement through the sale of answer sets, covering most if not all of the questions in textbooks, diminishes educators’ ability to use the textbooks and end-of-chapter questions and can even lead educators to reconsider using Pearson’s textbooks as components of their courses.

Pearson and Chegg have done business with each other in several ways over the years. But no aspect of the parties’ business dealings with one another—or the law—permits Chegg’s conduct complained of herein. Pearson has told Chegg both verbally and in writing to remove the answers from Chegg Study. Yet Chegg continues to violate Pearson’s copyrights on a massive scale, including as to Pearson’s highest-profile, signature textbooks.

Resources

Direct to Case Docket (via Court Listener)

Direct to Full Text of Complaint
24 pages; PDF.

Direct to Exhibit A
8 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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