The U.S. Copyright Act permits, but does not require, registration of copyright-protected works with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is not required for a work to enjoy copyright protection. Copyright protection arises immediately on the creation of a copyright-protectable work.
Nevertheless, under the U.S. Copyright Act, registration by the Copyright Office (or ruling by the Copyright Office refusing to register) is, among other things, a prerequisite to bringing a copyright infringement action. The federal courts have long disagreed about whether an application for registration satisfies the rule. In other words, does the copyright owner have to wait for the Copyright Office to rule on the registration application before suing?
The United States Supreme Court has now agreed to hear a case that could resolve this long-disputed issue. Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com, LLC., Case No. 17-571. The appeal is from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which held – recognizing the disagreement among the courts – that a registration application is insufficient to sue.
Whichever way the Supreme Court rules, early registration has distinct advantages for the copyright owner. Advantages includes easier proofs at trial on liability and damages and the possibility of collecting attorneys’ fees for registration applications filed before infringement begins or, for published works, within three months of publication.