A federal court in Arizona has thrown out a photographer’s copyright infringement claim against a book publisher on the grounds that his images were not properly registered. The images in question had been registered by Corbis, the photographer’s agency, under the agency’s widely-publicized bulk registration program.
Earlier this year, a federal court in New York rejected an infringement claim by two other Corbis photographers on the same grounds.
In the Arizona case (2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83676), photographer Tom Bean sued Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, alleging that the publisher used 150 of his images beyond the scope of licenses granted by Corbis between 2000 and 2009.
The publisher successfully challenged Bean’s claim, arguing that none of the photographer’s individual images were properly registered, which is a statutory requirement for filing a copyright claim in federal court.
Bean’s images had been registered by Corbis as part of several different compilations. Those compilations included hundreds of images by many different photographers. While the compilations themselves were properly registered, the court found that the individual images were not because Corbis did not provide information in the registration documents that is explicitly required by copyright law.
In his decision, US District Judge David G. Campbell wrote that Corbis failed to comply with the registration requirements for individual works “almost completely. It failed to provide the titles of any of the individual photographs, largely failed to identify the authors of the photographs, and failed to connect any author with any individual photograph.”
A federal court in New York reached the same conclusion earlier this year in an identical case: Marc and David Muench also sued Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for using their images beyond the scope of a Corbis license. But their copyrights had also been improperly registered under the Corbis bulk registration program, the judge ruled.
Corbis Director of Communications Dan Perlet did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Bean case. But he said earlier this year with regard to the Muench case that Corbis regarded that decision “as incorrect.” He said the case would be re-argued and that Corbis “will likely file an amicus brief supporting the bulk [registration] process.”
The Arizona court rejected the agency’s request to file an amicus brief in defense of its bulk registration process, however.
Perlet also said that since early 2009, Corbis has been listing the titles and authors of all images that it registers in bulk on behalf of its photographers.
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