Textbook authors settle lawsuit over Cengage Unlimited

Textbook authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht have settled their lawsuit with Cengage over its Cengage Unlimited subscription service for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms of the agreement, the rights to the authors’ textbook, Choices in Relationships, will revert back to them, and Cengage will receive all rights to the authors’ remaining textbooks, Marriage and the Family, and Understanding Social Problems.

Cengage authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a class action lawsuit against Cengage on May 14, claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, violated their publishing agreements, and that the company was refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments.

Cengage denies trampling authors’ rights, claims Cengage Unlimited will increase author royalties

In its response to a class action lawsuit filed against them in May by David Knox and Caroline Schacht, Cengage denies that its business model “tramples on” or is in any way inconsistent with its authors’ rights and believes that the new Cengage Unlimited model will “increase sales and revenues (and, accordingly, royalties to authors).”

Cengage authors Knox and Schacht filed their class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 14 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments.

Will Cengage’s rising tide lift all boats?

Subscription models for reading materials are not unheard of in other industries, but they are a new model emerging within the higher education publishing industry. Late last year, Cengage announced Cengage Unlimited, a subscription based model offering access to its entire catalog of textbooks and related learning materials to college students for a flat price of $119.95 per semester calls Cengage Unlimited.Royalty structures under these models vary. Newer contracts provide broad leeway for publishers to allocate royalties on in a way they deem reasonable.

While boon to students, especially those assigned multiple Cengage texts, it has left Cengage authors wondering about the impact to their royalty earnings.

Authors Knox and Schacht file lawsuit against Cengage, claiming company has ‘trampled on its authors’ rights’

Cengage authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 15 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments.

Cengage says authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited

In a recent post on the Cengage blog, Erin Joyner, the company’s senior vice president of product, said that authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited. However, industry experts say Cengage cannot make this sweeping statement.

“The large majority of publishing agreements do not contemplate the Cengage Unlimited model of distribution,” said David Slarskey, a litigator with Slarskey LLC. “Refusing author demands to opt-out tends to undermine the terms of the contract.”

Announcement of Cengage Unlimited royalty calculation model raises new questions

Cengage’s royalty calculation model for its new subscription service Cengage Unlimited has raised a few questions that remain unanswered, primarily, will their model account for the range of existing publishing agreements—which have a variety of different provisions for accounting for royalties?

“Here’s the key problem,” said Stephen E. Gillen, a partner with Wood, Herron & Evans. “Cengage has a wide variety of different contracts that were entered over time. Some of their longer lasting titles, those in their 10th edition and up, are the subjects of original contracts still in place that were entered 40 or more years ago. Many of their contracts were not done on Cengage forms but were acquired from other publishers, all of which have different provisions for accounting for royalties. Some of them were done before the days of bundling, custom publishing, digital publishing, and publishing through interactive/adaptive learning platforms and so do not provide expressly for those then unanticipated media or channels of distribution. But Cengage has thousands of authors and almost certainly a greater number of contracts (no author will have less than one contract, and many will have multiple contracts). It’s hard for me to imagine that they are going to have lawyers go back over every single contract to determine if and how it should be treated in the current scheme.”