December 12, 2005

Court won’t hear National Geographic CD-ROM case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let
stand a ruling that copyright law authorized a publisher to
reproduce a collective work in CD-ROM format, even if some new
materials have been added.

The justices declined to review a dispute involving
National Geographic magazine and whether it had to pay
freelance writers and photographers additional compensation for
using their work in the electronic compilation.

In 1997, the National Geographic Society began selling a
CD-ROM set containing digitally scanned copies of all past
issues dating back 108 years.

The 30-disc set depicted an exact electronic image of the
original bound magazines, with pages presented two at a time in
the very same sequence as in the original paper format. The
user would see the articles, photographs and advertisements
exactly as they had appeared in the original paper copies.

Numerous freelance writers and photographers sued for
copyright infringement and said they were entitled to
additional compensation.

But a federal judge and U.S. appeals court in New York
ruled against the freelance contributors.

The appeals court ruled that the CDs represented an
"electronic replica" of the magazine and were a permissible
"revision" under copyright law, even if some new copyrightable
materials, such as an introductory sequence and a computer
software program, had been added.

The freelance contributors appealed to the Supreme Court to
hear the case. But the justices rejected the appeal without any
comment or recorded dissent.