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Corbis Responds to Bulk Registration Issues - PPA Today

Corbis Responds to Bulk Registration Issues

On Tuesday we passed along information about a legal ruling last week in New York, the case Muench Photography Inc. v. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company and R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (09-CV-2669).

We know the decision handed down in this case is of great concern to you. Rest assured that our attorneys are actively monitoring the case, and we'll keep you informed of any updates as the appeals process unfolds. We have also been in touch with Corbis and gathered details about the steps they plan on taking. Below is an update on this case and its effect on bulk copyright registration.

To Refresh Your Memory...
The legal decision of the case referenced an industry-wide process by which stock photography companies bulk-register photo copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office on behalf of their contributors. The ruling regarding this bulk registration process was a byproduct of an infringement case between a photographer that Corbis represents, Mr. Muench, and publishing companies, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co. and RR Donnelley & Sons Company. In order to reduce or limit potential damages against them in an image infringement lawsuit, the publishing companies argued that Mr. Muench's photographs aren't properly registered.

SAA Attorneys Weigh In...
In reviewing the judge's opinion in Muench vs. Houghton Mifflin and Donnelley, the attorneys have indicated that the ruling establishes that any copyright registrations of compilations protect only the compilation and not the individual work--particularly when those individual works are owned by individuals who are not the registrant. The bulk copyright registration that Muench's images were included in did not do so, despite being a process recognized and approved of by the Copyright Office.

For any stock photographer who submitted work to Corbis (or anyone else who took ownership of the copyright "solely for the purpose of copyright registration"), the ruling invalidates the registration made on their behalf in the name of the third party. If you have contributed images to any stock agency to be registered on your behalf, please be aware those images are only registered as compiled works if your name as the creator was omitted from the registration application. Therefore, based on the court's ruling, you cannot rely on images registered in this manner to also be registered to you as an individual copyright owner.

This ruling is unfortunate to say the least for all photographers, especially stock photographers.

Corbis Responds...
Corbis would like you to know they are also monitoring the case and intend to keep contributors informed of any updates or changes to their copyright registration. They believe the decision regarding the bulk registration process is incorrect and will be appealed.

Corbis is recommending their contributors wait for the outcome of the appeal before registering their works. It should be noted that since February 2009--based on photographers' requests to make it easier for them to know the specific registrations that applied to them--Corbis has registered all images under the name of contributors; therefore, those registrations are in no way affected by this ruling. Additionally, Corbis can still license images normally and pursue infringement cases, even without the copyright registration.

If the process of bulk copyright is deemed to not work after various appeals, Corbis has offered to handle re-registration, supplementary filings or whatever process the Copyright Office requires to ensure photographers' images are properly registered.

Next Steps...
As you know, while images have copyright protection at the moment they are taken, rights holders who have registered that copyright with the Copyright Office have additional benefits when pursuing infringement, such as the awarding of statutory damages rather than actual damages, the awarding of attorney fees and more.

Whether or not they are registered, your images still have copyright protection. Their registration status is now dependent on the outcome of the appeal. Until we know that the Muench decision has been overturned, we strongly recommend you consult with your stock agencies and inquire about their bulk registration submissions.

We understand your concerns in this matter, and are committed to closely following the appeal and keeping you informed.

To refer to the earlier member alert about the case and bulk registration, please click here.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on May 14, 2010 10:49 PM.

Think Tank Photo Releases New Retrospective Soft-sided Camera and Lens Shoulder Bags was the previous entry in this blog.

Digital Foci to Release Photo Book In Elegant Pearl White For Weddings is the next entry in this blog.

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