After many years, the Ninth Circuit finally entered a decision in the Alaska Stock, LLC v.Â Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company case. Â Reversing the district court’s dismissal of Alaska Stock’s copyright infringement claim, the court definitively held that Alaska Stock had “successfully registered the copyright both to its collections and to the individual images contained therein” despite the fact that the name of the photographer and title of each component work was not included in the registration.
In doing so, the Court gave deference to the long-standing Copyright Office registration procedures that had been created in 1995 in conjunction with PACA. Â Further, the Court specifically rejected the decisions in other courts that refuse to honor registrations because they fail to name all of the photographers and titles of each photograph in a collective work.
It is clear that the Ninth Circuit understood theÂ repercussionsÂ of its decision. Â In conclusion, the Court stated:
We are not performing a mere verbal, abstract task whenÂ we construe the Copyright Act. We are affecting the fortunesÂ of people, many of whose fortunes are small. The stockÂ agencies through their trade association worked out what theyÂ should do to register images with the Register of Copyrights,Â the Copyright Office established a clear procedure and theÂ stock agencies followed it. The Copyright Office hasÂ maintained its procedure for three decades, spanning multipleÂ administrations. The livelihoods of photographers and stockÂ agencies have long been founded on their compliance withÂ the Registerâs reasonable interpretation of the statute. TheirÂ reliance upon a reasonable and longstanding administrativeÂ interpretation should be honored. Denying the fruits ofÂ reliance by citizens on a longstanding administrative practiceÂ reasonably construing a statute is unjust.