Can A Copyright Be Validly Transferred by Simply Accepting On-line Terms?

A recent 4th Circuit case considered whether a copyright can be validly transferred by simply clicking “yes” to a website’s terms of use.  In this case an online real estate site required users to accept the site’s terms of use (TOU) prior to uploading photos.  The TOU noted that all images become the “exclusive property” of the site and that the uploader agrees to “irrevocably assign” the image to the site free of any restrictions. The site owner, Metropolitan Regional, filed for a preliminary injunction to prevent the original copyright owner from posting photos on its own site.  The district court agreed with Metropolitan and the 4th Circuit affirmed. The question of whether the clicking of “yes” to accept the TOU constitutes a valid E-signature that properly transfers copyrights will be decided in the near future.  

See Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. v. American Home Realty Network, Inc. for the 4th Circuit opinion.

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