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Copyright Blog

The "Bell" Tolls for Texas School District

Sports psychologist launches suit for alleged violation of the copyright in his motivational passage.

On October 22, 2020, Dr. Keith Bell ("Bell") filed suit against the Eagle Mountain Saginaw Independent School District ("Eagle Mountain") for alleged violation of his copyright in a passage of Bell's book, Winning Isn't Normal (the "WIN Passage").

According to Bell's Complaint, Eagle Mountain infringed his copyrights when the WIN Passage was posted on the Twitter pages of the Chisolm Trail High School softball team and color guard. The posts were publicly available for about a year between 2017 and 2018 until they were taken down in response to complaints from Bell. Settlement negotiations after the takedown were unsuccessful in achieving satisfaction, so Bell brought the present suit.

This isn't the first time that Bell has sued educational actors for use of the WIN passage. We reported on the recent outcome of a similar suit against Liberty University here, and that blog post contains links to other Bell cases that we have noted.

In his Complaint, Bell claims that the WIN Passage is the heart of Winning Isn't Normal, and that he profits from this particular piece of intellectual property by licensing its use and by selling derivative products, like posters and t-shirts, that display the passage. Bell provided evidence of a valid copyright in Winning Isn't Normal, and a separate registration for the WIN Passage.

In the Complaint, Bell goes to great pains to explain why Eagle Mountain's use of the WIN Passage should not qualify as fair use. Whether or not Eagle Mountain will assert a fair use defense, or any other defenses, remains to be seen, though, since the school district has not yet filed an answer. Updates on this case will be shared as they become available.