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Clark County School District named in copyright infringement lawsuit


The Clark County School District is the target of a copyright lawsuit for buying a professional training book in 2009, scanning it and posting it online for anyone to download, according to a federal lawsuit filed in September by the author who discovered the reproduction.

“That’s a pretty blatant copyright infringement. Crystal clear,” said Mark Borghese, a Las Vegas copyright attorney not connected with the case.

He predicted the School District will soon settle, especially since someone posted the book on powershow.com and attributed it to the district’s website. The single missing page from the online post was page 2, which includes the copyright notice.

“That’s clearly evidence of willful infringement,” said attorney Donald Cox, who represents the author.

Borghese said that the case will probably be resolved in a “quick settlement,” adding that he’s never seen anything like this from a school district because officials should know better. Districts routinely order textbooks and other copyrighted materials.

But district officials assert they can’t find anyone at the district who posted the book online. District spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said that when the lawsuit was filed, the district asked multiple employees if they had any information about the origin of the reproduction, and no one had knowledge of it.

The Clark County School Board, with Board President Carolyn Edwards abstaining, voted to hire a Kentucky law firm, Middleton Reutlinger, on Thursday to handle the case at a rate of $275 per hour. Author Jeff Gray filed the lawsuit in federal court in Western Kentucky, where he lives. That’s why the School District needed to hire an attorney there.

Gray’s copyrighted book, “If She Only Knew Me,” is written in the perspective of a troubled student and is meant to help train educators to identify and help children with behavioral problems. Since its publication in 2005, the book has sold 70,000 copies, according to Gray’s attorneys, Donald Cox and Matthew Cox.

Gray asserts that the district bought the book in December 2009 but was never given the right to reproduce it.

But there’s no proof that the district did reproduce it, Searer said. She said the district bought multiple copies of the book, but knows of no employees using the book at this time. Gray also didn’t provide evidence in his complaint that the “presentation originated with or was posted by a CCSD employee,” Searer said.

But the book was posted online with the attribution line, “Learn more at http://interact.ccsd.net,” which is a link to a portion of the Clark County School District’s website. Sometime between May and September, when the lawsuit was filed, the book was kept online for download, but the district’s attribution was changed to “Anonymous,” according to the lawsuit and supporting documentation.

The author of the reproduction should be ascertainable through a subpoena served to the website host, Borghese said.

Gray’s attorneys said they don’t know the dollar amount of damages they’re seeking because that will depend on the number of downloads. Borghese said that can also be ascertained through a subpoena of powershow.com. Clark County School District is the fifth-largest school system in the nation with 315,000 students and 39,000 employees.

Gray’s case against the Clark County district isn’t the only one. He has filed lawsuits against other school districts and an education consultant for also reproducing and dispersing the book online.

“It has been knocked off all over the country,” Donald Cox said.

The consultant even went so far as to replace Gray’s copyright notice with his own. All the lawsuits are in their early stages, with one district offering Gray a settlement, according to his lawyers.

“It really is a shame that a school district, which you’d think would have a respect for intellectual property, would do this,” Donald Cox said. “You don’t have to be an attorney to know this is some kind of misconduct.”

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

 

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