Eleventh Circuit Applies Copyright Act’s Collective Works Provision to CD-ROM Collection
By Dmitriy Tishyevich — Edited by Andrew Ungberg
Greenberg v. National Geographic Society
11th Circuit, June 30, 2008, No. 05-16964
On June 30, the Eleventh Circuit issued a divided en banc opinion, affirming by a 7-5 vote the panel decision in Greenberg II, which had vacated Greenberg I.
Writing for the majority, Judge Barkett held that National Geographic was privileged to reproduce its print issues. Section 201(c) of the Copyright Act distinguishes between the copyright of each individual work within a collective work — here Greenberg’s photographs — and copyright of the collective work in its entirety, here National Geographic’s “Complete National Geographic” (“CNG”), a CD-ROM collection of all the back issues of the National Geographic magazine. Citing New York Times v. Tasini, Judge Barkett wrote that § 201(c) granted the publisher privilege to reproduce an article contributed by a freelancer when it was part of (1) the collective work to which the author originally contributed; (2) any revision of that work; or (3) any later collective work in the same series. Emphasizing the importance of the context in which the works were presented, Judge Barkett found that the CNG CD-ROM collection qualified as a “revision” under § 201(c) and Tasini‘s interpretation of the term.
William Patry comments favorably on the majority opinion on his blog, and notes that a grant of certiorari is unlikely as there is no split in the circuits, and the issues decided are close to Tasini. He previously criticized Judge Birch’s approach as at odds with copyright’s constitutional goal of promoting the progress of science. Law.com provides a summary of the decision and the procedural history of the case.