News & Updates

Mar 20194

U.S. Supreme Court Decision and the Importance of Registering Copyright Works Early

On March 4, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the requirement for copyright registration prior to filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement. In the unanimous opinion authored by Justice Ginsburg, the Court settled a split in Circuit Court decisions regarding whether the “registration . . . has been made” requirement under 17 U.S.C. §411(a) is satisfied merely by the filing for copyright registration or is only satisfied by the Copyright Office’s act of granting registration. The Court, settling on the latter, held registration occurs—and a copyright claimant may commence an infringement suit—when the Copyright Office registers a copyright. And, upon registration of the copyright, the copyright owner may recover for infringement that occurred both before and after registration.

While there are some exceptions to this rule (e.g., a copyright owner who is preparing to distribute a work of a type vulnerable to predistribution infringement—e.g., a move or musical composition—may apply to the Copyright Office for preregistration. §408(f)(2)), it is now perhaps more important than ever to register your copyright works early. Early registration provides not only evidence as of your date of possession of the work but also can expedite the filing of an enforcement lawsuit against alleged infringers.