This past week, Pearson, a public, billion-dollar education and publishing company sued Chegg, another public, billion-dollar education company. The essence of Pearson’s legal claim is that Chegg is engaging in violation of copyrights held by Pearson because Chegg has published, and sold, answers to the tests and practice questions Pearson has in its textbooks.
Pearson argues that the questions and answers belong to them, and they should be able to decide when as well as how they are used. If Pearson prevails, it could damage not only Chegg’s business model but the enterprises of several other companies that sell answers to academic questions written by text publishers, professors, or professional licensing bodies. Those companies include file sharing companies that sell access to tests and answers, as well as the respectable tutoring and test preparation companies.
While Chegg’s copying of Pearson’s textbook study questions could be deemed infringement, Pearson may be overreaching in claiming that Chegg’s answers, based on those questions, also violate the Pearson copyrights. Chegg may be able to successfully argue that said answers are simply derivative works.