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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