WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that copyright law authorized a publisher to reproduce a collective work in CD-ROM format, even if some new materials have been added.
The justices declined to review a dispute involving National Geographic magazine and whether it had to pay freelance writers and photographers additional compensation for using their work in the electronic compilation.
In 1997, the National Geographic Society began selling a CD-ROM set containing digitally scanned copies of all past issues dating back 108 years.
The 30-disc set depicted an exact electronic image of the original bound magazines, with pages presented two at a time in the very same sequence as in the original paper format.
The user would see the articles, photographs and advertisements exactly as they had appeared in the original paper copies.
Numerous freelance writers and photographers sued for copyright infringement and said they were entitled to additional compensation.
But a federal judge and U.S. appeals court in New York ruled against the freelance contributors.
The appeals court ruled that the CDs represented an "electronic replica" of the magazine and were a permissible "revision" under copyright law, even if some new copyrightable materials, such as an introductory sequence and a computer software program, had been added.
The freelance contributors appealed to the Supreme Court to hear the case. But the justices rejected the appeal without any comment or recorded dissent.