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Minden Pictures, Inc. v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 29, 2015

MINDEN PICTURES, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC., Defendant-Appellee

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco California March 13, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:12-cv-04601-EMC. Edward M. Chen, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY [*]

Copyright

Reversing the district court's judgment, the panel held that Minden Pictures, Inc., a licensing agent for photographers, had statutory standing under the Copyright Act to bring an infringement suit based on alleged violations of the terms of its licenses to John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a textbook publisher.

The panel held that agency agreements between Minden and individual photographers conveyed an ownership interest in the photographers' copyrights sufficient to permit Minden to sue for infringement. The agency agreements transferred legally cognizable rights to reproduce the copyrighted photographs and to authorize the distribution and the display of the photographs by granting licenses to third parties. The panel held that even though the photographers also retained the right to issue licenses themselves, Minden held an " exclusive license" to grant licenses to others, and therefore had standing to sue.

Maurice Harmon (argued), Christopher Seidman, Gregory N.

Albright, and Alex Rice Kerr, Harmon & Seidman, LLC, Grand Junction, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Steven David Zansberg (argued), Michael Beylkin, and Christopher Beall, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: John T. Noonan, William A. Fletcher, and Morgan Christen, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge

Minden Pictures, Inc., is a stock photography company that serves as the licensing agent for dozens of photographers, authorizing third parties to use copyrighted photographs. Under the terms of its contracts with the photographers, Minden has the exclusive right to act as their licensing agent, but the photographers reserve their rights to use the photographs themselves and to license them to others.

Minden brought an infringement suit under the Copyright Act against John Wiley & Sons, Inc., a textbook publisher, alleging that Wiley had substantially exceeded the scope of the licenses granted by Minden by publishing far more copies of books containing the photographs than permitted under the licenses. The question in this appeal is whether Minden, as a licensing agent, has statutory standing under the Copyright Act to bring an infringement suit based on alleged violations of the ...


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