Non-exclusive Agency Agreement with copyright holders did not give standing to sue, Northern District of California.

By Kevin Miles posted 01-30-2014 10:11

In the Northern District of California, case number C-12-4601 EMC, Minden Pictures v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Judge Edward Chen decided on January 27, 2014 that a non-exclusive agency agreement with photographers did not give the agency standing to sue for infringement. The court left open the course for the photographers to sue John Wiley & Sons. Under section 106, the court concluded that the agency did not have ownership.

The courts are divide on exclusive and non-exclusive agency agreements. Below is a portion of page 12 from the summary judgement.

See, e.g., Bourne Co. v. Hunter Country Club, Inc., 990 F.2d 934, 937 (7th Cir. l993) (“A licensing agent is neither the legal nor the beneficial owners of the copyright and has no interest in the copyright.”); Hulex Music v. C.F. Maint. & Prop. Mgmt., Inc., 115 F.R.D. 303, 304 (D. Neb. 1987) (holding that a licensing agent “is not the legal or beneficial owner of the copyright”). Additionally, courts have refused to find standing under the Copyright Act even where the plaintiff appeared to be the exclusive licensing agent. See Plunket v. Doyle, No. 99 CIV 11006 (KMW), 2001 WL 175252, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2001) (finding that a plaintiff who claimed to have the “exclusive worldwide rights to manage, as well as to negotiate, license, and otherwise cause and permit the exploitation” of all rights as to Arthur Conan Doyle’s works lacked standing under the Copyright Act); Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc, 679 F. Supp. at 1572 (rejecting plaintiff’s argument that the “exclusive right to authorize others to use OAA’s copyright must in itself be a copyright within section 106 and, thus, protected by section 501”).