Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Bulk Copyright Legitimacy Rejected by Federal Court


In the second such case heard in the federal court system this year, an Arizona judge has rejected a photographer’s copyright infringement claims on the grounds that the images were improperly registered under Corbis Images’ bulk copyright program. The suit, Bean vs. Houghton Mifflin, was filed by photographer Tom Bean against Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, alleging that the publisher used more than 100 of his images between 2000 and 2009 beyond the scope of the licenses granted by Corbis. In June, a New York court also ruled in a suit brought by photographers Marc and David Muench that Corbis’ bulk copyright program inadequately registers images.

Corbis began filing bulk copyright registrations for online images to facilitate its own licensing infringement process, as well as to reportedly save artists’ time and money that they would spend registering each image. In both cases, the courts ruled that images by Bean and the Muenches are not protected because Corbis did not include their names in the registration applications.

In June, the Picture Archive Council of America, Inc. (PACA), submitted an amicus curiae brief asking the courts to reexamine the Muench case, believing the images to be rightfully protected. 

A month before the Muenches filed their lawsuit in March 2009, Corbis began listing the names of all photographers in its bulk registration process. If the case is reopened, Corbis has stated that it will also enter into the legal debate with an amicus brief.