Appeals court holds up legality of copyrighting images en masse


posted Friday, March 21, 2014 at 1:07 PM EDT


An appeals court has overturned a lower court decision, confirming that images registered for copyright in large groups meet the federal requirements for copyright, even if each photograph doesn't have a title, photographer, and description listed.

This ruling comes as part of a drawn out legal battle between Alaska Stock and textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin. Alaska Stock originally brought suit against Houghton Mifflin for far exceeding the usage license that it had paid for. Houghton Mifflin responded by saying Alaska Stock's copyright wasn't valid, as the images had been registed in a bulk lot as a collection. The entire collection was only generally described, and three photographers were listed on it, but not each photo had a title.

The court has now ruled that copyright registrations like this meet the requirements of federal law, saying the US Copyright Office was allowed “to grant registration to individual stock photographs within a collection where the names of each of the photographers, and titles for each of the photographs, were not provided on the registration forms.”

Apparently, the law requires a title of collected works, and a description of them. By registering the images as “Alaska Stock CD catalog 4,” and by identifying the underlying works as “CD catalog of stock photos”, Alaska Stock was in the clear.

All told, this should mean more protection for photographers, especially for professionals who wouldn't relish having to register each and every image in their catalog individually. While this decision is in keeping with decades of practice, if nothing else, it reinforces that this method is legal, and meets all requirements of federal law.

(via PDN Pulse)

Image: My Trusty Gavel, by Brian Turner. Used under a Creative Commons license.