Greenberg v. National Geographic

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Greenberg v. National Geographic was a copyright lawsuit regarding image use and republication rights of National Geographic to their magazine in electronic form.


An electronic edition "The Complete National Geographic on CD-ROM and DVD," consisting of over 108 years of an exact image-based reproduction of each and every page of each monthly paper issue of National Geographic magazine, has been tied up in copyright litigation for over ten years by a handful of prior photographers and contributors since shortly after the digital archive was issued in late 1997. National Geographic withdrew this archive from the market in 2004 until the litigation was resolved.

Two federal appellate courts have ruled in the various cases. One case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled against National Geographic in 2001 (Greenberg v. National Geographic) prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a similar case later that same year involving the same statute of the U.S. Copyright law (Tasini v. The New York Times et al.). The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that "Greenberg" was inconsistent with the Supreme Court ruling in "Tasini," and ruled in favor of National Geographic in cases involving the same Complete National Geographic product. These New York cases were decided after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Tasini case. In a decision announced June 13, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed its prior decision in Greenberg I and ruled that the "Complete National Geographic" was an appropriate reproduction under the Copyright Act since it maintained the context of its prior collective works. The appeals court said that the Second Circuit was correct in holding that Greenberg I was inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Tasini case. On August 30, 2007, the Eleventh Circuit issued an order vacating the panel decision in Greenberg 2 and said the Court would hear the appeal en banc, or by all the judges on the Court, which was heard February 26, 2008. On June 30, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit held that National Geographic's reproduction of its magazine electronically was privileged under the federal copyright statute.


Since National Geographic's victory in the Second Circuit, several publications (including The New Yorker, Playboy, Atlantic Monthly, and Rolling Stone) have either produced or announced plans to produce complete reproductions of their prior paper magazines on DVD or a restricted website for subscribers.

As a result of this ruling National Geographic has announced it is releasing the full 120-year version of this magazine at the end of October 2009.[1] Yearly updates are also promised.