In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently held that accepting a website’s terms of use through a so-called “clickwrap” agreement constitutes a signature for purposes of effecting a transfer of copyright.

The case, Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. v. American Home Realty Network, Inc., revolved around photographs displayed with real estate listings.  The plaintiff, MRIS, operated an online real estate listing service.  As part of its terms of use, MRIS’s service required users to “irrevocably assign” all rights they had in any images submitted as part of a listing.  The defendant, AHRN, a real estate broker, displayed photographs taken from the plaintiff’s site on its own website.  When MRIS sued for infringement, AHRN challenged its ownership of copyrights in the photos.  The lower court rejected AHRN’s challenge, granting a preliminary injunction, and the Fourth Circuit has now affirmed.
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