Metropolitan Regional Information System, Inc. v. American Home Realty Network, Inc.

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 07-17-2013
  • Case #: Nos. 12–2102, 12–2432
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 14445
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 3722365
  • Full Text Opinion

If the owner of a copyrighted database also owns the copyright to the individual components of that database they are not required to list each individual copyright as previous work when filing for an updated copyright to the database.

(DUNCAN, J.) Metropolitan Regional Information System "MRIS" ran a paid multiple listing service for real estate brokers and agents. A real estate agent or broker would pay a fee then they could upload photos of properties for sale to the MRIS database from which other brokers could see which properties were available as well as display photos of those properties on their own website through a data feed. A condition of uploading photos to the MRIS database was that the original owner assigned all ownership rights to the photos to MRIS. MRIS filed for an updated copyright for the entire database every quarter complying with all of the necessary restrictions. American Home Realty Network "AHRN" ran a competing free service through its website Neighborcity.com which distributed the same information directly to consumers. AHRN used several of MRIS photos. MRIS sent AHRN a cease an desist letter. AHRN refused, offering instead to create a special license agreement. MRIS refused, and sued for an injunction in federal court which was granted by the district court. AHRN contends on appeal that MRIS should not be granted an injunction because it did not comply with the registration requirements for a valid copyright for an automated database, and even if it had MRIS does not own a copyright for the individual parts of the database rather just for the database as a whole. The court looked at section 202.3(b)(5)(i) which states an aauthor of an automated database may file a single application covering up to three months' worth of updates and revisions, so long as all of the updates or revisions (1) are owned by the same copyright claimant, (2) have the same general title, (3) have a similar general content, including their subject, and (4) are similar in their organization. Each registration must also comply with certain notice, publication, and deposit formalities. Nnothing in the statute or any related regulation specifically requires MRIS to list the name and author of every component photograph it wishes to register as part of an automated database registration. Therefore, the court held that MRIS had a valid copyright on each individual photograph as well as on the database as a whole. Next the court looked at whether a valid assignment took place when the photos were transferred to MRIS database. The court concluded that under the E-Sign Act there were no magic words that signified whether a signature was valid, and consequently by making the people uploading the photos to the database click "yes" that they agreed to the terms and conditions constituted a valid assignment. As a result of determining that there was a valid assignment of ownership and that MRIS had a copyright on database and photographs the district court's injunction was AFFIRMED.

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