Monday, August 25, 2008

Jerry Greenberg v. National Geographic Society

In hindsight, I know that I had seen a blog post about this, but the title didn't catch my attention. Today an email on this woke me up! The one sentence summary is:
National Geographic wins copyright ruling over republication of four copyrighted photos in “The Complete National Geographic” 30-disc CD-ROM set.
A five-page review of the decision has been published by the Association of Research Libraries. If you want to get to the heart of the matter, Martha L. Arias, Internet Business Law Service Director wrote:
This Supreme Court decision has been followed by the majority in Greenberg v. National Geographic Society, 11th Cir., No. 05-16964, 6/30/08. The 11th Circuit held that the National Geographic's use of a freelance's photographs in CD ROMs is a privileged revision of collective works under 17 U.S.C.S. § 201(c). In this case, the National Geographic published in a 30-CD ROM library every magazine published since 1888. The CD ROMs contained images of the exact collective works in which the freelance's photographs were published. Using the above test-mentioned test by the Supreme Court, the 11th Circuit held that each magazine of the National Geographic's was a collective work and as such it could be reproduced in CD ROMs under the 201(c) privilege.
So if no changes are made to the content, the “transfer of a work between media does not alter the character of that work for copyright purposes.” And there is no copyright infringement. While some (e.g., freelances looking for additional revenue) may not like this ruling, it continues what is known as "media neutrality."

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