Photo Attorney

Dec 24, 2008

Greenberg's Valiant Battle Comes to An End

As a follow up to my October 20 blog, the US Supreme Court denied Jerry Greenburg's Petition for Writ of Certiorari, asking the Court to review the application of the Tasini case to his, resulting in a ruling against him. This denial of "cert" does not mean that the Supreme Court agrees with the 11th Circuit's order, but only that the Court did not find the reasons to review the matter "compelling."

The issue arose when several photographers, including Greenberg, licensed photos to National Geographic ("NG") magazine to be published in the print editions. NG subsequently sold CDs with copies of the previously-published magazine issues that were almost exactly as they appeared in print, except that NG added a search engine and index. The photographers argued it was a new use of their images and wanted to be paid for it. NG argued that the CDs were a revision of the collective work (the magazines) so that the usage was included in the initial grant of license from the photographers.

After a long battle, the courts ultimately sided with NG. Therefore, photographers now must be clear in their licenses whether a publisher may make electronic uses of their photographs.

While the outcome of this matter is not what we hoped for, Greenberg is to be commended for fighting for photographers' rights.