Minden Pictures v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., No. 14-15267 (9th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Minden, a stock photography company, filed an infringement suit under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 501(b), against Wiley, a textbook publisher, alleging that Wiley had substantially exceeded the scope of the licenses granted by Minden. Minden claimed that Wiley published far more copies of books containing the photographs at issue than permitted under the licenses. At issue was whether Minden, as a licensing agent, has statutory standing under the Copyright Act to bring an infringement suit based on alleged violations of the terms of its licenses to Wiley. The court held that Minden may bring an infringement action to remedy the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and display of the photographs by those to whom it has granted licenses because agency agreements convey the rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the photographs to Minden via an “exclusive license” to grant licenses to third parties. Accordingly, the court held that Minden has standing to sue under the Act and reversed the judgment of the district court.
Court Description: 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.