HomeFocus AreasCourt CasesFaulkner v. National Geographic Society (2005)

Faulkner v. National Geographic Society (2005)

On March 4, 2005, in the case of Faulkner v. National Geographic Society (PDF), the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that NGS did not infringe on the copyrights of freelance photographers and authors when it digitized their works to create a CD-ROM collection from the entire print version of the NGS magazine (from 1888 to 1996) in a searchable format.


Judge Ralph K. Winter wrote the opinion for the New York Court claiming the plaintiffs' arguments were unconvincing because the "transfer of work from one media to another generally does not alter its character for copyright purposes." The decision upholds the ruling made in 2004 by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

ARL, and other library associations, submitted an amici curiae brief (PDF) in support of National Geographic, as a ruling in favor of the freelancers would have required publishers of collective works, and others who legitimately digitize them, to obtain additional copyright permission. Seeking additional authorization from the freelancers would hamper the efforts of libraries and others to digitize scholarly collections.

It is likely the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case because this ruling conflicts with a ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Greenberg v. National Geographic.



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