Corbis Corporation copyright registrations
invalidated by SDNY federal district court
Our client Muench Photography Inc. (MPI) brought suit against Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (HMH)
for copyright infringement, alleging the textbook publisher exceeded copy limits in over 100 licenses issued by MPI's stock
agency Corbis Corporation. HMH persuaded a federal judge in New York to dismiss the claims. Even though the Copyright
Office approved the Corbis registration program - under which millions of photographs have been registered - the registrations
were stricken because not every photographer was named on Corbis' registration application forms. The Court did not give any
weight to the fact that the Copyright Office expressly advised Corbis it need not name each photographer. The Court
also did not address a 2008 amendment to the Copyright Act that states that inaccurate information on an application shall
not invalidate a registration certificate unless (1) the applicant knew the information was inaccurate and (2) the Copyright
Office would have denied the registration if the accurate information had been known. This provision was enacted to prevent
infringers from using technical deficiencies in the registration process to avoid liability for copyright infringement.
Not surprisingly, the Muench court’s ruling has generated great interest in the visual art licensing industry and three amicus curiae, Corbis Corporation, American Society of Media Photographers, and Picture
Archive Council of America, Inc., filed briefs in support of Harmon & Seidman LLC's (www.harmonseidman.com) now pending motion for reconsideration.
judge rules Houghton Mifflin Harcourt committed copyright infringement
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
Company (HMH) is a multi-billion dollar textbook publisher. For many years HMH engaged in a wide-ranging, fraudulent business
practice. Its scheme was simple. HMH obtained thousands of licenses for copyrighted visual art, alleging it would reproduce
small quantities while knowing it would reproduce far more. It did so without telling the copyright holders or paying additional
fees. For example, in Wood v. Houghton Mifflin et al, HMH licensed work for 40,000 but printed in excess of one million.
On December 15, 2008, for the first time, a U.S. District Court granted a motion for summary judgment we filed on behalf of our client, professional photographer Ted Wood, finding HMH and its printer
committed copyright infringement by copying Wood's photographs in excess of the license limit of 40,000. The court also denied
HMH's motion for summary judgment on disgorgement of profits, fraud, punitive damages, and its printers' profits. This means
Wood could have presented all those claims to the jury. Shortly after this ruling was announced, the case settled.
In another case pending against HMH, Semerdjian v. McDougal Littell, a division of Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, HMH licensed paintings for 40,000 copies for use in The Language of Literature, grade
9, 2000 edition but printed more than 1.2 million copies. Sales of this textbook have generated approximately $64 million
US federal judge
rules John Wiley & Sons, Inc. committed copyright infringement
For decades, our client, professional photographer
Tom Bean, licensed photographs to John Wiley & Sons for use in its textbooks. Tom asked us to find out whether Wiley
was using his images beyond the permissions he granted. After Wiley was required to disclose its uses in response to
our discovery requests, we filed a motion for summary judgment on 108 copyright infringement claims. On March 30, 2012,
Federal Judge Martone in the District of Arizona granted our motion and ruled as a matter of law that Wiley committed copyright
infringement in all 108 instances.