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Not Past the Post Yet

An Update on Post University v. Course Hero

In October 2021, we first published a blog post on a case filed by Post University against Course Hero. Post University claimed that Course Hero “committed, among other things, multiple instances of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), and unfair competition by posting and creating derivative works of educational materials owned by Post University without Post University's permission.”

Photo by Sidi Bechir via Unsplash

After denying all accusations in its Answer, Course Hero subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss in 2023, arguing that the claims did not meet the "plausibility" standard required to sustain the lawsuit. The arguments centered around the interpretation that the copyright notice and watermarks on the Course Hero website do not constitute false copyright management information as claimed by Post University. Course Hero contended that these notices and watermarks at the bottom of the website are merely general statements and do not imply ownership of all content on the site. With these arguments, Course Hero hoped to convince the court that there was no legal basis for the claims against it, however the court found otherwise.

In its Order on the Motion to Dismiss, the court mentions that the requirements for the plausibility standard do not ask for probability of the defendant's unlawful action but rather “more than a sheer possibility, demanding sufficient factual matter that, when accepted as true, states a plausible claim for relief.” For the court, the way Course Hero used the copyright and watermarks in their website are enough to plausibly allege both the falsity and intent required for a claim to stand, and thus the court found it reasonable to deny the Motion to Dismiss. However, the court also states that considering whether such uses were an infringement or not constitute a factual question that is for a jury to determine after considering the content of the website as a whole and not something to be definitively decided at the pleadings stage.

The case is now in the discovery process, with several motions to compel depositions filed by both parties. It appears that this may be a prolonged case that could extend further unless the parties agree to a settlement.