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Will the Court Find the Answers?

Proceedings Continue in Case Over Practice Questions and Solutions

A while ago, in January 2022, we published a post with updates on Chegg Inc.’s response to Pearson Education's complaint in a copyright lawsuit over educational practice questions and answers. Since then, the case has undergone numerous back-and-forth proceedings, making it one of the longest-running cases we have followed thus far.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes via Unsplash

To provide a summary of what has happened to the case, on November 22, 2021, Judge Edward Kiel ordered the parties to commence discovery proceedings in preparation for a conference scheduled for January 24 of the following year. After the conference, the court directed the parties to execute their discovery plan and established a deadline to conclude discovery by November 1, 2022. Throughout this period, the parties filed motions seeking extensions of deadlines, prompting the Judge to schedule a status conference for September of that year. However, these conferences were adjourned until March 2023. During this time, Pearson requested and received permission from Judge Kiel to file an Amended Complaint. Pearson also sought to compel discovery on a specific matter against Chegg, but the judge denied this request.

In response to Pearson’s Amended Complaint, Chegg contested Pearson's claim to exclusive rights over the creation and distribution of solutions to end-of-chapter questions in their textbooks. Chegg argued that such a position is legally flawed and contrary to public educational interests. Additionally, Chegg asserted that there was a Textbook Questions Distribution Agreement between them and Pearson, permitting them to use the end-of-chapter questions from Pearson’s textbooks to create solutions displayed alongside these questions. Chegg contended that Pearson's current claims contradicted this prior agreement and the understanding that Chegg's solutions were independent creations.

Chegg presented several defenses, including fair use, copyright misuse, express license, and equitable estoppel. They argued that their use of Pearson’s textbook questions constituted fair use under 17 U.S.C. § 107. Chegg also claimed that Pearson's actions constituted an attempt to misuse copyright to secure a monopoly over educational solutions.

The court appointed a special master to assist with the deposition process. In the special master's findings from the discovery process, several instances were noted where Pearson needed to provide evidence for their allegations. This included adequately identifying specific derivative works and their association with the alleged infringements, as well as demonstrating the effects of Chegg's actions on the value and market for these works. Specifically, most of the opinions highlighted the need for Pearson to materially demonstrate the specific infringements and to quantify how these infringements have affected Pearson.

Now, it is up to the new judge assigned to the case, Judge Espinosa, to deliberate on all the matters filed by the parties thus far and reach an opinion for the court. This process may continue further down the road if the parties do not reach a settlement by then. Until that occurs, we will continue to provide updates on the case as new important events unfold.