US Supreme Court Tackles Copyright Registration Circuit Split

Article By Angélique McCall

Although a work is automatically protected by copyright when it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, under the Copyright Act, an owner must register her works with the federal Copyright Office to benefit from the Act’s protections.  One such protection is against copyright infringement.  Thus, before an owner can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, the work in question must be “registered.”

But what exactly does it mean to be “registered?”  This question has been debated for years and has left the circuit courts split.  The Copyright Act outlines the process for registration as: (1) filing an application and paying a fee; (2) depositing a copy of the copyrightable material; (3) an examination of the application by the Register of Copyrights; (4) registration or refusal of registration of the application by the Register; and (5) issuance of a certificate of registration.

Some circuit courts have held that a work is “registered” and the copyright owner can sue an infringer as soon as the applicant files the application, deposits a copy of the work and pays a fee.  This is known as the “application” approach.  Other circuit courts follow the “registration” approach which requires the Copyright Office to act on the application—by examining it and either approving or refusing it—before the copyright owner may file suit.

So, which approach is correct? We should soon have an answer as the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v, LLC to resolve this issue and finally decide what it means to be “registered.”  Click here  for the full article on IPWatchdog.