A recent ruling by a Federal California court raises questions about what constitutes copyright management information on a published image.
The United States District Court for the Central District of California, recently dismissed the plaintiff CoStar Group’s DMCA claim and ruled in favor of defendant Commercial Real Estate Exchange. Justification for the ruling was that the plaintiff’s watermark did not constitute Copyright Management Information (CMI). The United States Copyright Office (USCO) states, “CMI is certain information, including the title, name of the author and copyright owner, and terms for use of the work, conveyed in connection with copies, phonorecords, performances, or displays of a work.”
Historically, logos were considered within the scope of identifying information. This ruling puts this established practice into question.
The court ruled, “Plaintiff alleges its’ CMI is the watermark logo ‘in the bottom right hand corner’ of its photographs. The watermark logo can be described as five small light grey parts that form a circle. Although Plaintiff alleges that the logo ‘publicly identifies [Plaintiff’s] ownership of the images and protects [Plaintiff’s] property, constitutes copyright management information,’ which is a legal conclusion, the watermark logo, itself, does not contain any identifying information about the author of the work pursuant to § 1202(c). . . . Plaintiff’s logo does not include the author’s name, title, an alphanumerical designation, or identifying symbols referring to such information. . . . Accordingly, Plaintiff’s second and third causes of action fail as a matter of law because the watermark logo does not constitute CMI.”
This case may be appealed in the future and could be overturned, but considering this ruling, it is important to review your current CMI to identify if it falls within the USCO’s definition. Preventative measures on the front end can avoid headaches in the future. Please visit our Copyright & Advocacy page for more information on copyright.
¹CoStar Group, Inc. et al v. Commercial Real Estate Exchange, Inc., 2-20-cv-08819 (CDCA 2021-06-09, Order) (Consuelo B. Marshall)