Pearson Education this week filed suit against textbook service Chegg for copyright infringement, alleging that Chegg's popular subscription study service illegally appropriates Pearson’s end-of-chapter textbook questions.

In a complaint filed September 13 in federal court in New Jersey, lawyers for Pearson said the scale of Chegg’s infringement was “staggering.”

Specifically, the suit revolves around Chegg Study, a subscription service that among its offerings features answers to end-of-chapter homework questions from various texts for $14.95 a month, with the textbook questions often copied nearly verbatim or with just slight changes, the suit alleges. Pearson lawyers told the court that “the majority” of Chegg’s roughly $644 million in total revenue in 2020 came from its sales of answers through Chegg Study, which reportedly counted some 6.6 million subscribers as of 2020.

“Chegg hires thousands of freelancers to prepare answers to textbook questions. Chegg then systematically publishes these answer sets on the Chegg Study website, where they are organized by the titles of the corresponding textbooks—using precisely the same unit, chapter, and topic orders and naming conventions for the questions employed in the textbooks—so that students can easily search for and find answers to the textbook questions they have been assigned,” the complaint notes. “By using and copying Pearson’s original creative content to make answer sets based on that content, Chegg infringes Pearson’s exclusive rights as a copyright holder, including the rights of reproduction, preparation of derivative works, and distribution. If, when, and how Pearson provides answer sets to its textbook questions is a right owned by Pearson that Chegg usurped for itself.”

An appendix lists some 150 Pearson textbooks allegedly infringed, which lawyers say represents “just a fraction” of Chegg’s infringement, with Chegg claiming to offer "millions of homework answers" to "end-of-chapter questions from 9,000 textbooks, a significant number of which are published by Pearson,” the complaint states.

“Chegg’s infringement harms students, authors, educators, learning institutions, and, of course, Pearson and other educational publishers. If left unchecked, Chegg will continue to infringe and cause damage.” Pearson is seeking damages, injunctive relief, and to have Chegg’s infringing content destroyed.

As of early Tuesday morning, PW had not received a comment from Chegg on the lawsuit.