United States Court Of Appeals Decision For Copyright Registration

March 18, 2014

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After many years, the Ninth Circuit finally entered a decision in the Alaska Stock, LLC v. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company case.  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.  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 the repercussions of its decision.  In conclusion, the Court stated:

We are not performing a mere verbal, abstract task when we construe the Copyright Act. We are affecting the fortunes of people, many of whose fortunes are small. The stock agencies through their trade association worked out what they should do to register images with the Register of Copyrights, the Copyright Office established a clear procedure and the stock agencies followed it. The Copyright Office has maintained its procedure for three decades, spanning multiple administrations. The livelihoods of photographers and stock agencies have long been founded on their compliance with the Register’s reasonable interpretation of the statute. Their reliance upon a reasonable and longstanding administrative interpretation should be honored. Denying the fruits of reliance by citizens on a longstanding administrative practice reasonably construing a statute is unjust.