Publisher Tanks in Taking on Established Copyright Group Registration Practice

Alaska Stock is a stock photography agency which specializes in Alaska photos and Alaska-themed photos.  Stock photography agencies register copyrights and license images to others on behalf of photographers.  Since photographers who shoot images for stock rely on being able to produce images in large volume, stock photography agencies provide a benefit to photographers by taking care of time consuming business and licensing details.  Likewise, stock photographers benefit stock photography agencies by providing a stream of new photographs so that the stock agencies don’t have to hunt for photographers and photographs.

The Copyright Office has an established practice of extending copyright registration to the individual components of a collective work, such as individual photographs, when the author of the collective work registers the collective work.  The copyright owner of the collective work must also own a copyright in each of the component works.  The author of the collective work is distinct from the author of an individual component contained in the work. The copyright owner and the author are often two different people or entities. The Copyright Office does not require listing the names of the individual authors or the titles of the individual components.  Publisher Houghton Mifflin recently challenged this Copyright Office practice, arguing that the statute requires listing both the individual authors and titles of the component works.  The district court agreed with Houghton Mifflin, dismissing Alaska Stock’s copyright infringement complaint against Houghton Mifflin.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

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Argentine Tango Song’s Copyright Issues More Complicated Than the Dance

Dee, my spouse, and I started taking Argentine Tango classes together last fall.  Tango is a complicated dance that takes years to learn, so it can be frustrating at times.  Despite the frustration, we very much enjoy the classes, practicas (informal dances) and social dances we attend.  One of the things I enjoy most about tango is the music!  It’s so much fun!  Tango music has a wonderful driving rhythm and is fabulously melodramatic.  A song only lasts a couple of minutes, though, so it’s enjoyable without becoming overwrought.  I’ve often thought it would be great fun to play piano in a tango band.  In the process of looking online for tango music sources, I discovered that tango music scores are available for download for free from several websites.  I was amazed.  Can I download these scores without becoming a copyright infringer?  Maybe.

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Sound Recording Registration No Proxy for Musical Composition Registration

The First Circuit Court of Appeals couldn’t go wrong by quoting Mark Twain at the outset:

Over a century ago, Mark Twain lamented that ‘only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.’  We fear that Twain’s deity would fare little better with the tangled skein of copyright and contractual claims presented by the plaintiffs in this case. Confining our inquiry to the arguments seasonably raised before the district court and to the factual background at the time of summary judgment, we conclude that the district court did not err in granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiffs’ subsequent motion for reconsideration.

(Opinion pdf page 2).

Although this case involved a convoluted fact pattern, what the case essentially comes down to is this:  The plaintiffs claimed copyright ownership of musical compositions, but registered sound recordings for the songs they claimed were infringed.  Further, even though the plaintiffs recorded the songs they claimed to own the musical composition copyrights for, the sound recording deposits the plaintiffs provided to the copyright office were made by others, not the plaintiffs.  It’s not surprising that the district court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion, which was affirmed by the First Circuit.

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IP Addresses Not Enough to Identify Copyright Infringers

One of the issues that frequently arises in copyright cases involving BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer Internet filing sharing protocol, is whether an individual defendant can be identified and held liable solely on the basis of an Internet Protocol (IP) address associated with a specific account.  Judge Robert S. Lasnik, Western District of Washington, recently answered that question with an emphatic “No.”  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants infringed plaintiff’s copyright by downloading the movie “The Thompsons” without authorization.

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