Library, Archives Associations file federal appeals court brief on copyright infringement case

Contact: Bernadette Murphy

ALA Washington Office

(202) 628-8410
For Immediate Release:

June 7, 2006

Library, Archives Associations file federal appeals court brief on copyright infringement case

(WASHINGTON) Today the American Library Association (ALA), American Association of Law Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, Society of American Archivists, and Special Libraries Association filed a friend of the court brief in support of the National Geographic Society’s (NGS) right to re-publish works in a digital format without seeking permission of authors or other contributors.
The associations have a long history with the case,
Greenberg v. National Geographic Society, which involves an allegation by photographers and authors that NGS violated copyright when it published past issues of its magazine on CD-ROM without first seeking permission.
The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The six organizations, which have filed briefs supporting NGS since the case was first appealed in 2001, agree with the NGS contention that as long as digital versions place photographs and articles in the same context as the print original, there is no infringement of copyright.
The CD-ROM in question in the case contains photo-scanned images of the entire print version of the
National Geographic magazine from 1888 to 1996 in a searchable format.
The U.S. Supreme Court and the federal appeals court for the Second Circuit also have considered this point of copyright law.
Their decisions, the associations believe, support the right of scholars and researchers to combine pre-existing works with the necessary software to provide a searching capability.

ALA Legislative Counsel Miriam Nisbet said, “Our position is that the Copyright Act permits publishers, libraries, archives, and the public to take advantage of new technologies to preserve and distribute creative works to the public if no changes are made to the original work once republished in a different format.”
She continued,
Greenberg case has major implications for the public’s access to those materials.”