ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Copyright Claim References Contracts, But Doesn't Bind Copyright Holder to Those Contracts

A recent case out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Krist v. Pearson Education, Inc., Civil Action No. 16-6178, deals with whether a copyright holder's lawsuit can be governed by a contract between sublicensees with regard to forum selection. The answer: No. 

In the case, a photographer, Krist, licensed hundreds of his photograph to a stock photography agency, Corbis. Corbis then sublicensed the photographs to third parties. Corbis and Krist had agreements permitting this sublicensing; Corbis also entered into agreements with the sublicensees, including Pearson. 

Krist's allegations were that Pearson was using photographs outside of the terms of its contract with Corbis, resulting in copyright infringement. Pearson sought to transfer venue to the Southern District of New York, based on its forum selection clause in its agreements with Corbis. Although Krist was not a party to those contracts, Pearson argued that Krist's lawsuit was based on the contracts; Krist was a beneficiary of the contracts; and Corbis was acting as Krist's agent in entering into the contracts. 

But the court noted that Krist had not asserted any contract claims. His claims were entirely copyright-based. While the case would require "consideration" of the Corbis-Pearson contracts, that was not enough to bind Krist to the forum selection clause in a contract that Krist was not a party to. Krist had no continuing control over Corbis's activities, and so had not had the ability to comment on or affect or influence Corbis's acceptance of the forum selection clause.

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