Cengage responds to subscription lawsuit

Cengage responds to subscription lawsuit

Cengage has responded to a federal lawsuit claiming its forthcoming US subscription service, Cengage Unlimited, will cost authors in sales and royalty payments. Answering the class action suit brought by two authors on behalf of Cengage authors, the educational publishers' lawyers have said writers can in fact expect payments to increase.

Cengage Unlimited, announced at the end of 2017, has been billed as an alternative to the "traditional and costly approach of paying for each course’s materials individually", offering students access to over 20,000 products across 70 disciplines at a cost of $119.99 a semester, or $179.99 for 12 months.

Ahead of the intended launch date in August 2018, a lawsuit was filed in May by two authors, David Knox and Caroline Schact. Both are East Carolina University sociology professors who together have co-written textbooks on social issues, marriage and family going into their 10th and 12th editions. 

According to Publishers Weekly, it was claimed Cengage's subscription service "wrongfully" imposed "a unilateral change to the compensation structure for its authors", disrupting "the business of selling Plaintiffs’ work" in favor of selling subscriptions.

However, the trade magazine reported this week Cengage lawyers have responded in a 12-page document that there is no basis on which to expect that the authors' royalties would "decline substantially" and the "expectation is that Plaintiffs will see increased royalties". The new subscription service does not breach the authors' contracts, it said.

In a blog post last month, Cengage said: "Litigation following the launch of a new and innovative business model is not unusual ...  The launch of Cengage Unlimited is moving forward as planned. This lawsuit, or any similarly filed lawsuit, will not delay the launch of Cengage Unlimited for students and instructors in August."