Can I sue FedEx

FedEx is being sued for a CC violation - and nobody can really take it seriously

Great Minds - or maybe not?

In the land of opportunity, another case has occurred that no one would have thought possible: FedEx Office is being sued for distributing non-commercial documents - by the not-for-profit US organization Great Minds. Eh what? All over again, please!

Great Minds provides teaching materials for public schools in the United States, which they make available under a non-commercial CC license - which means that they can be used free of charge. US schools are allowed to use the school material under the license - now it only has to be reproduced so that every student and teacher can get a copy. And that's where FedEx Office comes in. The schools hire the document management service to copy the teaching papers - of course, FedEx is paid to do this.

But that's not how it works!

... thinks Great Minds! Because by the fact that FedEx get paid for their copy service, they have violated the CC license, according to Great Minds! They promptly sue the company because they see the "non-commercial" condition of their license being violated - because they have copied the documents on behalf of their customer (who can use the documents free of charge). If you now see three fat question marks buzzing over your head, you can be sure that you are not alone.

Even before the start of the process, FedEx requested to discontinue the process due to hopelessness and even the non-profit CC organization - which has set itself the task of creating various user-friendly standard licenses for the simplified publication of content - is interfering in the case. They wrote an "Amicus Curiæ Letter" - a friendly statement from a third party who wants to help the court - to the responsible judge. In her letter, CC plays out the theoretical case that the plaintiffs actually win the case.

Then the whole thing would look like this: According to the interpretation of Great Minds, public school authorities, for example, would not be allowed to commission a delivery service to send the copied licensed works to schools - because the delivery of the non-commercial fonts would again generate a profit be achieved. Internet service providers should also no longer be used to host the works for use in the classroom. It would also be unthinkable to send the files over a commercial network that teachers and students use together.

This begs the question of whether Great Minds considered all of these restrictions when they sued FedEx for the alleged CC violation. The judge's decision on the case is still pending.

Again to repeat

But maybe the CC license used contains a clause that FedEx overlooked and that makes the whole case a little less absurd? Unfortunately no, because the CC license used, which is called CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International Public with its full name, is broken down into the following individual parts:

  • Non-commercial use, i.e. free use: non-commercial, NC
  • as long as the author is named: BY
  • and copies / derivatives are passed on under the same conditions: share alike, SA.

If things should turn out differently ...

The lawsuits are not always as absurd as the Great Minds v FedEx case. Careless use of content can also result in an unintentional violation of CC licenses. It is therefore an advantage to have a good insurance policy at hand that protects third party claims for damages resulting from a violation of copyrights, license rights, domain rights or personal rights. With professional liability insurance from, you are always protected against the risks mentioned.

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© Vanessa Materla - exali AG