The Supreme Court has spoken and held that a copyright registration is needed in hand to commence a lawsuit but what does this mean to you?
The Copyright Act was very clear: in order to commence a lawsuit for copyright infringement, the copyright owner must have a copyright registration. This, however, lead to some Federal Circuits to interpret this language different ways. Some Circuits, like New York in the Second Circuit, held that the plaintiff must have a registration in hand to sue and not just a pending registration. Other Circuits held that a pending registration was good enough. Here is the difference, a copyright registration may take up to a year to be granted. It’s a way too long of a process but the Copyright Office is overwhelmed with requests. After about that year, you get a registration certificate. With this decision, the Supreme Court has confirmed that you must have said registration in order to start a lawsuit.
So, what does this mean to artists, creators, and other copyright holders, here are some quick points:
*Register your copyrights as soon as possible. In order to get protection and be able to sue, you need to timely register your copyrights.
*If you works are being infringed and you need to sue immediately, you don’t have to wait a year. You can pay a premium to have your copyright registration expedited. This cause big times bucks, in the hundreds of dollars, but if you need to so, it is worth it. I have had to do this for several lawsuits that I handled and the process is very quick.
* You still can enforce your rights without a registration. If someone is infringing your works, a cease and desist, DMCA takedowns can still be issued, and you can otherwise assert your right. But…..no lawsuit can be filed.
Registration is a fairly easy process and you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to do it. Check out copyright.gov about how to do it or just ask your friendly neighborhood attorney.