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Update on Knox v. Cengage: our challenge to the "Netflix for Textbooks" Model

July 31, 2018

In May, we filed a complaint against Cengage on behalf of college textbook authors. The complaint, reported on by Forbes here, alleges three core theories:  

 

(i) Cengage Unlimited, Cengage's one-price, all-access subscription service ("Netflix for textbooks") frustrates Cengage's publishing agreements with its authors, by undermining the contractual royalty-for-sale compensation model agreed to by the authors;

 

(ii) Cengage arbitrarily and improperly allocates value to its own digital packaging and supplements when it sells companion "courseware" with author works, so as to reduce authors' royalty bases; and

 

(iii) Cengage has unfairly denied authors the information they need to determine the accuracy and validity of royalty statements.  

 

On Friday, July 27, Cengage answered our complaint without making a motion to dismiss either the individual claims or the class action allegations. Publishers Weekly wrote an article summarizing the Answer. The case will now proceed into discovery and towards the important determination as to whether the dispute may be litigated on a class-wide basis. If a class is certified, we will be pursuing damages, termination rights, and additional rights of information disclosure for authors.

 

Authors interested in the litigation should contact David Slarskey, dslarskey@slarskey.com.

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