Jeffrey Greenberg vs. The National Georgraphic Society

In May 2009, Photographer Jerry Greenberg of Seahawk Press, Miami Florida, donated to Franklin Pierce Law's IP Library his collection of legal briefs, exhibits, and other material that was created in his 12-year case: Greenberg v National Geographic. Greenberg's case stemmed from the National Geographic Society reusing more than 60 of Greenberg's photographs in a 30-disc CD-ROM compilation called "The Complete National Geographic." The digital product included 1,200 past issues of National Geographic magazine. The series of appellate rulings came to an end in December 2008 when The United States Supreme Court denied to hear an appeal by Greenberg in which he asked the justices to reverse a lower court's landmark copyright decision.


The Law Center plans to digitize the collection, making it accessible for academic teaching and student research on intellectual property, copyright and trademark law.

Professor Jon Cavicchi commented "This donation is valuable and meaningful on many levels. This is a unique collection of its kind and it is an honor that Mr. Greenberg has entrusted to Pierce Law the work of more than a decade of his life in what he considered to be a just cause in the public interest of content creators in the U.S. This collection will be extensively indexed and scanned into searchable documents for free use of all those interested around the globe. Pierce Law has a commitment to offering an open source of unique intellectual property Web based information."

From a legal scholarship standpoint, this case is significant. The 11th Circuit helds that pursuant to 17 U.S.C. Section 201(c), the republication of the CD set is a permitted revision of those collective works for which the National Geographic, the owner of the copyright therein, does not need additional license or permission from plaintiff, the owner of the copyright in various photos contained in these magazines. The fact that this CD set also contained a new 25-second video montage of the covers of 10 of the magazines it contained did not alter this conclusion. In reaching this result, the 11th Circuit followed the decisions of the Second Circuit in Faulkner v. Nat'l Geographic Society, 409 F.3d 26 (2d Cir.) cert denied - US --, 126 S.Ct. 833 (2005) and the Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001). The 11th Circuit accordingly reversed its prior contrary decision, and remanded the case to the District Court for further consideration of plaintiff's claim that the inclusion of one of his photographs in a magazine cover contained in this new 25 second montage infringed his copyright therein.


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Map of Court Proceedings for
Jeffrey Greenberg Vs. The National Geographic Society