Supreme Court to Resolve Split Over Copyright Registrations

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up a question whose answer may determine if and when copyright owners can sue in federal court.

The court June 28 granted a petition to review the question of whether plaintiffs who’ve submitted a copyright registration application but haven’t received a registration certificate can sue.

Federal appeals courts have split on the question. Some rulings have allowed plaintiffs to go ahead with their cases while they wait for the Copyright Office to process their applications.

The issue may be critical to plaintiffs who have come up against the copyright law’s three-year statute of limitations to sue for infringement. Many plaintiffs wait to file for registration right before going to court, but then face a delay at the Copyright Office.

The Office of the U.S. Solicitor General, in a brief urging the court to take up the case, said Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act clearly states a plaintiff can file a copyright lawsuit only after the Copyright Office has approved or rejected an application.

The case is Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v., LLC, U.S., No. 17-571, review granted 6/28/18.